What Determines Whether a Melanoma Patient Will Respond to Checkpoint Blockade Drugs?


Of all cancer types, melanoma is the most investigated in terms of its potential to be treated through immune system-based approaches. More immunotherapy drugs are approved for melanoma than for any other type of cancer, and more are in development. Recent additions to the immunotherapy arsenal are the ‘anti-PD-1’ immune checkpoint blockade drugs pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo). Continue reading…


Immune System-Activating Drugs in Combination Treatments May Be Next Big Thing for Melanoma


Among solid tumors, the curative potential of immunotherapies has been explored most in melanoma. One reason for this is that melanoma tumors often contain so-called immune infiltrates—patches of T cells, the killer cells of the immune system. It seems that these fighter cells arrive at the ‘battlefield’ to target tumor cells for killing, but instead become ‘frozen,’ unable to attack.  How to activate the tumor-killing potential of T cells has been an area of intense and fruitful research, leading to the development of several immunotherapy drugs. Continue reading…


Old Cancer Drug Gets Fresh Look

“When Dave deBronkart was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2007, he learned about a treatment called high-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) that fires up the body’s immune system to fight the disease. The response rate was not great — tumours shrank in only about 15% of patients. And as many as 4% of people died from the treatment. But some of those who responded survived for years or even decades.”

Editor’s note: IL-2 is an immunotherapy drug, meaning that it boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. It and other new immunotherapies are showing promise for patients across many different cancer types.


Old Cancer Drug Gets Fresh Look

“When Dave deBronkart was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2007, he learned about a treatment called high-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) that fires up the body’s immune system to fight the disease. The response rate was not great — tumours shrank in only about 15% of patients. And as many as 4% of people died from the treatment. But some of those who responded survived for years or even decades.”

Editor’s note: IL-2 is an immunotherapy drug, meaning that it boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. It and other new immunotherapies are showing promise for patients across many different cancer types.


Old Cancer Drug Gets Fresh Look

“When Dave deBronkart was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2007, he learned about a treatment called high-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) that fires up the body’s immune system to fight the disease. The response rate was not great — tumours shrank in only about 15% of patients. And as many as 4% of people died from the treatment. But some of those who responded survived for years or even decades.”

Editor’s note: IL-2 is an immunotherapy drug, meaning that it boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. It and other new immunotherapies are showing promise for patients across many different cancer types.


Immunotherapy, BRAF Inhibitor Sequence Affected Outcomes in Metastatic Melanoma

“Prior treatment with immunotherapy did not limit response to BRAF inhibitors among patients with metastatic melanoma, according to results of a retrospective study.

“However, patients who underwent initial treatment with BRAF inhibitors and subsequently received immunotherapy with ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol-Myers Squibb) demonstrated poorer outcomes, results showed.

“Patients with BRAF-positive metastatic melanoma have several treatment options, including BRAF inhibitors vemurafenib (Zelboraf, Hoffmann-La Roche) and dabrafenib  (Taflinar, GlaxoSmithKline), the MEK inhibitor trametinib (Mekinist, GlaxoSmithKline), and the immunotherapy agents ipilimumab and interleukin-2. Yet, there are limited data with regard to optimal sequencing, according to researchers.”


Personalized Vaccines May Boost Survival After Interleukin Treatment

High doses of interleukin-2 (IL-2) can shrink melanomas but only 15% of people are still alive five years after this treatment. Now, new research shows that giving people vaccines against their own tumors could boost survival after IL-2 treatment. In a study of 149 people with melanomas that had spread, those treated with both IL-2 and a personalized vaccine lived far longer than those treated with IL-2 alone (nearly 40 vs. 12 months, respectively). In addition, people were far more likely to be alive at five years when given the vaccine before IL-2 treatment than when the order was reversed (46% vs. 14%, respectively).


Melanoma: A 2013 ‘Progress Report’


The past year saw some remarkable advances in melanoma clinical research and treatment. This feature explores the most notable melanoma news of 2013: Continue reading…


New Test May Predict Whether IL-2 Will Shrink Melanomas

While high-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) shrinks about 15% of melanomas, this U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved immunotherapy comes at the high cost of seizures and other major side effects. Now, a new study suggests there may be a way to tell when people with melanoma are benefiting from IL-2, sparing those who are not from unnecessarily enduring the downside of this treatment. The researchers found that when people with melanoma were treated with high-dose IL-2, those who did not benefit also had high levels of a particular type of white blood cell. These cells are regulatory T cells that produce a protein called ICOS (inducible T cell costimulator), which is linked to suppression of the immune system.