A Conversation with Catherine Poole: Melanoma Survivor, Patient Advocate, and Founder of the Melanoma International Foundation


The Melanoma International Foundation (MIF) is a nonprofit organization that provides a support community and scientific guidance for patients with all stages of melanoma and their families and caregivers. The MIF was founded in 2003 by Catherine Poole, who was diagnosed with melanoma 23 years ago. I spoke with Poole about the MIF and her role as a melanoma patient advocate. Continue reading…


Combining an Immune Checkpoint Antibody with an Anti-Angiogenesis Inhibitor


A small phase I study combining the immune checkpoint antibody ipilimumab with the angiogenesis inhibitor antibody bevacizumab showed promising results in advanced melanoma patients in 2011. Now, researchers are continuing to study the combination of immunotherapy and anti-angiogenic agents to understand which patients could best benefit from such a combination. Continue reading…


Smart Patients: Groundbreaking Website Supports Conversations among Cancer Patients


Cancer Commons is thrilled to report the public launch of Smart Patients, a new online discussion platform for cancer patients and their caregivers that will enable them to learn from each other and improve their care. The free website lets users share insights about personal treatment experiences, discuss breaking science, and search for clinical trials.

“Many patients are incredibly self-motivated,” says Roni Zeiger, MD, Smart Patients cofounder and former chief health strategist at Google. “They are already finding the most cutting-edge science and we are providing them with a new way to discuss and disseminate this knowledge.” Continue reading…


Tracking Resistance to Cancer Therapies Without Tumor Access


Clinicians would like to be able to monitor whether a cancer patient’s tumor has acquired a resistance mutation as a result of targeted therapy. Knowing early if resistance has developed would allow patients to switch therapies and to curb tumor growth. But taking repeated tumor samples is problematic for many reasons. Biopsies are invasive and some tumors are inaccessible. Another issue is that tumors are mosaics of many different types of cells that are constantly evolving—since biopsies take time in the clinic and only sample a small part of a tumor, they may also not be representative of what is going on with the biology of the entire tumor mass. Continue reading…


Targeting Non-BRAF Mutations in Melanoma to Address BRAF Inhibitor Therapy Resistance


BRAF-mutated metastatic melanoma can be treated with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug vemurafenib, an oral therapy that targets the V600E mutation in the BRAF protein. Another BRAF inhibitor, dabrafenib, has been filed with the FDA for treatment of the same patient population. BRAF inhibition results in rapid shrinkage of tumors for the majority of BRAF-mutated melanoma patients. But while treatment with a BRAF inhibitor alone results in tumor shrinkage in the short-term, patients’ tumors begin to grow again, typically 6 to 7 months after starting treatment. Continue reading…


Genetically Modified Cold Sore Virus Shows Promise in Melanoma


A new immunotherapy known as talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC), or Ovcovex GM-CSF, has shown the ability to shrink advanced melanoma tumors. T-VEC is a genetically modified version of herpes simplex virus type 1, the virus that causes cold sores. T-VEC was also engineered to produce GM-CSF (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor), a protein that stimulates the immune system.  Amgen, the California-based biopharmaceutical company that is developing the experimental cancer therapy, announced on March 19 that T-VEC had shown positive results in an advanced melanoma clinical trial. Continue reading…


Immunotherapies Take Center Stage in Treatment of Metastatic Melanoma


The promise of immunotherapy is coming to fruition with therapeutic advances in melanoma. In 1998, high-dose interleukin-2 (HD IL-2) became the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma. But HD IL-2 is severely toxic and benefits only a small minority of patients. In 2011, ipilimumab became the second immunotherapy approved for metastatic melanoma. Continue reading…


Video: Cancer Survivor Sharon Anderson on the Importance of Patient-Donated Data


In 2002, Sharon Anderson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called leiomyosarcoma (LMS). She joined an online discussion group to explore treatment options with other LMS patients, and tried a drug typically used for breast cancer. Her treatment was successful. In the video above, she tells us how she helped fellow LMS patients gather data about their own tumors and share it with a researcher. The resulting cancer vaccine is now in a phase I clinical trial. Continue reading…


Revamping the Way Cancer Vaccines Are Made Could Boost Their Efficacy


While not as toxic as other therapy approaches, cancer vaccines have also not been very effective. Despite many attempts by researchers, the only therapeutic cancer vaccine that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sipuleucel-T (Provenge), which is approved specifically for men with metastatic prostate cancer. Continue reading…