A Cancer Conundrum: Too Many Drug Trials, Too Few Patients

Excerpt:

“With the arrival of two revolutionary treatment strategies, immunotherapy and personalized medicine, cancer researchers have found new hope — and a problem that is perhaps unprecedented in medical research.

“There are too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials, and not enough patients to test them on.

“The logjam is caused partly by companies hoping to rush profitable new cancer drugs to market, and partly by the nature of these therapies, which can be spectacularly effective but only in select patients.”

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Using Alternative Medicine Only for Cancer Linked to Lower Survival Rate

Excerpt:

“Patients who choose to receive alternative therapy as treatment for curable cancers instead of conventional cancer treatment have a higher risk of death, according to researchers from the Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center. The findings were reported online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“There is increasing interest by  and families in pursuing alternative medicine as opposed to conventional  treatment. This trend has created a difficult situation for patients and providers. Although it is widely believed that conventional cancer treatment will provide the greatest chance at cure, there is limited research evaluating the effectiveness of alternative medicine for cancer.”

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New Online Navigator Helps Patients and Doctors Access Experimental Treatments

Excerpt:

“When approved therapies don’t work, or stop working, for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses, it puts them in a difficult position. Some turn to clinical trials that are testing experimental treatments. But many can’t do that because they are too sick, don’t meet the requirements of the trial, or can’t afford to travel to the site of a trial. That doesn’t mean they are out of options.”

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Immune-Cell Numbers Predict Response to Combination Immunotherapy in Melanoma

Excerpt:

“Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco researchers joined by physicians from UCSF Health. The findings provide a novel predictive biomarker to identify patients who are most likely to respond well to a combination of immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors—and to protect those who won’t respond from potentially adverse side effects of combination treatment.

” ‘Combination immunotherapy is super-expensive and very toxic,’ said Adil Daud, MD, director of Melanoma Clinical Research at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior author of the new study. ‘You’re putting patients at a lot of extra risk if they don’t need it, and you can adjust for that risk by knowing in advance who can benefit.’ ”

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New Study Finds That Lymph Node Removal Isn’t Necessary for All Melanoma Patients

Excerpt:

“Many patients with melanoma need a sentinel-lymph-node biopsy to determine if cancer cells have spread there, but a positive finding doesn’t mean all the lymph nodes in the area must be removed, according to new international study.

“Many  with melanoma need a  biopsy to determine if cancer cells have spread there, but a positive finding doesn’t mean all the lymph nodes in the area must be removed, according to a new international study conducted in part by researchers in Utah that may change standard treatment for melanoma patients whose cancer has spread.”

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Positive Results from First Randomized Study Assessing T-VEC/Ipilimumab Combo in Advanced Melanoma

Excerpt:

“The addition of T-VEC (T-VEC; Imlygic), a herpes simplex virus 1-based oncolytic virus, to CTLA-4 inhibitor ipilimumab (Yervoy) improves the objective response rate (ORR) in patients with unresected stage IIIb to IV melanoma, according to findings presented at the 7th European Post-Chicago Melanoma/Skin Cancer Meeting.

“T-VEC was the first approved oncolytic virus therapy in Europe, the United States, and Australia, and its efficacy was previously demonstrated in a phase III trial comprising patients with advanced unresectable melanoma.”

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Bristol-Myers’ Tarnished Checkpoint Star Opdivo Beats out Yervoy in Surprise PhIII

Excerpt:

“Bristol-Myers got a much-needed boost with the earlier-than-expected news that Opdivo beat out Yervoy in a Phase III study focused on a particular niche for adjuvant melanoma therapy. And an analyst who’s been following the data says it could be worth a billion dollars in added annual sales.

“The big biotech says an interim analysis of Checkmate-238 provided researchers with proof that the PD-1 drug outperformed Yervoy, Bristol-Myers’ CTLA-4 drug, among advanced Stage IIIb or IV patients, cutting the recurrence rate for those who have undergone surgery. There are no bottom line numbers in the statement, but Bristol-Myers says they’ll be able to release data at an upcoming conference to show that Opdivo provided a significantly lower risk of disease recurrence.”

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Personalised Vaccines Hold Cancer at Bay in Two Early Trials

Excerpt:

“A novel class of personalised cancer vaccines, tailored to the tumours of individual patients, kept disease in check in two early-stage clinical trials, pointing to a new way to help the immune system fight back.

“Although so-called immunotherapy drugs from the likes of Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche are starting to revolutionise cancer care, they still only work for a limited number of patients.

“By adding a personalised cancer vaccine, scientists believe it should be possible to improve substantially the effectiveness of such immune-boosting medicines.”

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Melanoma News at ASCO 2017: Combination Treatments


There are many hopes that combining immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs, or combining them with drugs of other types (immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or chemotherapy) is the future of treatment for many kinds of cancer. Literally hundreds of clinical trials are actively exploring these combinations, and melanoma is the cancer for which trials of this type abound. Last month, the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago featured just a few presentations in this area, apparently because it is too early to report results from the many ongoing trials with drug combinations. Continue reading…