Super Patient: Peter Fortenbaugh Faces the Uncertainty of Pioneering Melanoma Treatment


In spring of 2014, Peter Fortenbaugh noticed what appeared to be a tick that had bitten his lower calf. “It turned out not to be a tick, but it didn’t really go away,” he says.

The spot began to grow and bulge, and in October, Peter showed it to his primary care doctor, who referred him to a dermatologist to remove it. At the time, Peter recalls, it did not occur to him that the growth could be serious.

“I was actually very concerned about skin cancer because I spent a lot of time out in the sun sailing,” Peter says. “I put on a tremendous amount of sunscreen and protection, but never on my legs…I never connected the dots.”

However, a biopsy of the growth came back positive for melanoma. Peter, who lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and three children, immediately reached out to several doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area, and all had the same advice: “Take it out, take a biopsy.” Continue reading…


COLUMBUS Trial: Binimetinib plus Encorafenib Improves PFS in BRAF–Mutant Melanoma

Excerpt:

“The phase 3 COLUMBUS trial, designed to evaluate binimetinib plus encorafenib for the treatment of BRAF–mutant melanoma, met its primary endpoint of improving PFS over vemurafenib, according to the drug’s manufacturer.

“These results also were presented at the Society for Melanoma Research Congress in Boston.

“In part 1 of the trial, researchers randomly assigned 577 patients with locally advanced, unresectable or metastatic melanoma with BRAF V600mutations to receive 45 mg binimetinib (MEK162, Array BioPharma) plus 450 mg of encorafenib (LGX818, Array BioPharma), 300 mg encorafenib monotherapy or 960 mg vemurafenib (Zelboraf, Genentech) monotherapy.”

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Atezolizumab Combos Highly Effective for Advanced Melanoma

Excerpt:

“The addition of the PD-L1 inhibitor atezolizumab (Tecentriq) to the MEK inhibitor cobimetinib (Cotellic) and the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib (Zelboraf) induced a high response rate for patients with BRAF-mutant unresectable melanoma, according to findings from a phase Ib study presented at the 2016 Society for Melanoma Research Annual Meeting.

“At the data cutoff of June 15, 2016, 30 patients had received ≥1 dose of atezolizumab. The response rate with the triplet was 83%, which included 3 complete responses (10%) and 21 partial responses. Overall, 29 of the 30 patients were evaluable for response, with just 1 patient experiencing primary progressive disease. At the time of the analysis, median duration of response and progression-free survival were not yet reached.”

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Investigational Immunotherapy Was Safe, Tolerable, and Showed Some Activity Against Melanoma

Excerpt:

“The investigational immunotherapeutic IMC-20D7S was safe, well tolerated, and showed signs of modest clinical activity for patients with advanced melanoma, according to results from a first-in-human phase I clinical trial published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

” ‘Even though immunotherapy has significantly improved outcomes for some patients with advanced melanoma, many patients have tumors that do not respond to currently available treatments or have tumors that initially respond but then become resistant to them,’ said Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, the Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation and chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York. ‘In this study, we evaluated the safety and early clinical activity of a new antimelanoma immunotherapy.’ ”

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High Response Rates Observed with Ipilimumab Plus Nivolumab in Advanced Melanoma

Excerpt:

“Combined ipilimumab and nivolumab administered pre- and post-surgery reduced the tumor burden in patients with Stage III B/C melanoma, according to first results from the OpACIN trial reported at the ESMO 2016 Annual Congress.

“Tumor load was reduced after 6 weeks of ipilimumab plus nivolumab immunotherapy in 8 of 10 patients. Pathologic complete response (pCR) was achieved by 3 patients; and 5 patients showed minimal remaining micro metastases, including one partial response (PR) with remaining metastasis of 0.5 mm. One patient showed stable disease and 1 patient experienced progressive disease.”

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Array BioPharma and Pierre Fabre Announce COLUMBUS Phase 3 Study of Encorafenib plus Binimetinib For BRAF-Mutant Melanoma Met Primary Endpoint

Excerpt:

“Array BioPharma (Nasdaq: ARRY) and Pierre Fabre today jointly announced top-line results from Part 1 of the Phase 3 COLUMBUS (Combined LGX818 Used with MEK162 in BRAF Mutant UnresectableSkin Cancer) study evaluating LGX818 (encorafenib), a BRAF inhibitor, and MEK162 (binimetinib), a MEK inhibitor, in patients with BRAF-mutant advanced, unresectable or metastatic melanoma. The study met its primary endpoint, significantly improving progression free survival (PFS) compared with vemurafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, alone.”

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How Melanoma Spreads to Other Organs in the Body

Excerpt:

“In a landmark discovery, researchers at Tel Aviv University have unraveled the metastatic mechanism of melanoma, the most aggressive of all skin cancers.

“According to a paper published today in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the scientists discovered that before spreading to other organs, a melanoma tumor sends out tiny vesicles containing molecules of microRNA. These induce morphological changes in the dermis in preparation for receiving and transporting the cancer cells. The researchers also found chemical substances that can stop the process and are therefore promising drug candidates.”

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Melanoma: New Drugs and New Challenges (Part 2 of 2)


Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a 2-part post on the latest research in melanoma. To learn about research into drug combinations for melanoma that may work better than single drugs, check out Melanoma: New Drugs and New Challenges (Part 1 of 2).

As always, the more new treatments become available in melanoma, the more new challenges arise. With eight new drugs approved for melanoma in the last five years, oncologists may sometimes face the difficult choice of what drugs to choose for a patient’s first-line treatment. Immune checkpoint drugs sometimes cause serious side effects, but progress is being made on how to treat these and also how to treat patients with pre-existing autoimmune conditions. New approaches are needed in efforts to prevent recurrence of melanomas diagnosed at earlier stages of disease progression. These and other challenges are discussed below. Continue reading…


Concurrent SRS, Immunotherapy Improved Response in Melanoma Brain Mets

Excerpt:

“Undergoing immunotherapy within a month of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) for the treatment of melanoma brain metastases resulted in an improved response to treatment compared with undergoing the two treatments with a longer amount of time between them, according to the results of a study published in Cancer.

“Patients in the study who underwent the two therapies within 4 weeks of each other had a significantly greater median percent reduction in lesion volume regardless of whether SRS occurred before or after immunotherapy.”

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