FTC Announces Settlements against Marketers of Apps Claiming Utility in Early Melanoma Detection

“The Federal Trade Commission announced that the marketers of MelApp and Mole Detective have agreed to settlements that bar them from deceptively claiming their mobile apps can detect symptoms of melanoma, even in early stages.

“ ‘Truth-in-advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace,’ Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a press release. ‘App developers and marketers must have scientific evidence to support any health or disease claims that they make for their apps.’

“The FTC is looking into charges against two additional marketers of Mole Detective who did not agree to the settlement, according to the release.

“FTC complaints reported that the apps instructed users to photograph a mole with their smartphone camera and input other information regarding the mole. The mole’s melanoma risk was then calculated as low, medium or high, according to the apps’ purports.”

iPhone App Offers Quick and Inexpensive Melanoma Screening

“The idea sounds simple: Take a photo of a suspicious mole or lesion with your phone, run it through an embedded software program and find out within a few seconds if it is likely to be cancerous.

“But it could make quick and inexpensive screening a reality for millions of people who lack access to medical specialists. A University of Houston professor created the app, called DermoScan, which is now being evaluated for further testing at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. George Zouridakis, professor of engineering technology, has worked on the project since 2005, moving it to an application for a mobile phone after the iPhone became ubiquitous. The goal is to provide quick screening in rural areas or in the developing world, where specialty medical care generally isn’t available, he said.”

Mobile Technologies Expected to Change Paradigm in Melanoma Detection

“In this video, Allan C. Halpern, MD, illustrates how mobile technologies are expected to play a larger role in melanoma detection due to increased access and ease of use. However, he notes that a lack of oversight and quality assurance remain formidable challenges.

“While more than 50 iPhone apps are available to evaluate images of lesions, rashes and other abnormalities to help diagnose melanoma, the apps nevertheless use preexisting iPhone on-camera processing. Many inherent camera features attempt to improve the asthetic appearance of the skin, removing features that are critical to diagnosing a skin lesion.”

New UK Smartphone App May Help ID Melanomas

A new smartphone app for identifying likely melanomas is now available in the UK. Called Mole Detect Pro, the app is based on a beta version called Mole Detective that has been available in the U.S. for 2 years. The new app analyzes uploaded pictures of moles and gauges the chances that they are melanomas using the ABCDE method that is recommended for self checks at home: Asymmetry—irregular shape; Border—ragged, notched, or blurred; Color—more than one in an individual mole; Diameter—bigger than 6 mm; Evolution—changing size, color, or shape. However, while apps can help detect melanomas, recent research in JAMA Dermatology shows that that they can also miss them. Doctors caution that people should not rely on apps for diagnosing melanomas.

Dabrafenib Bests Chemotherapy and May be Safer than Vemurafenib

A clinical trial found that dabrafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, was far more effective in treating melanomas that have BRAF mutations than the chemotherapy drug dacarbazine, according to a report at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting. Patients treated with this drug lived without getting worse for 70% longer than those treated with dacarbazine (5.1 vs. 2.7 months, respectively). Moreover, compared to those treated with vemurafenib in other studies, dabrafenib-treated patients had less risk of another kind of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. This suggests that dabrafenib, which is experimental, could be safer than vemurafenib, which is FDA approved.

Vemurafenib Benefits People Previously Treated for Melanoma

A New England Journal of Medicine study found that vemurafenib, which was approved by the FDA in 2011, controlled melanomas in about half of people who had been previously treated for this disease. The trial included 132 repeat patients; tumors shrank in 47% of the patients and were not evident in 6% during the course of the trial. Vemurafenib is a BRAF inhibitor and about half of melanoma patients have BRAF mutations. While 26% of patients developed another kind of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, these lesions were successfully removed surgically.

Primary source: http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1112302

Scans May Reveal Early Drug Resistance in Melanomas

Preliminary results suggest that an imaging technique can give early signs of drug resistance in melanomas. A Journal of Clinical Oncology study found that positron-emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) scans correlated with standard measures of tumor response in seven melanoma patients treated with vemurafenib. The scans also showed that during the third and fourth weeks of treatment, tumors in three patients began to take up and metabolize more of a sugar. This is a sign of cell activity, suggesting that these tumors were starting to resist the drug.

Vemurafenib Boosts Immunotherapy Against Melanoma in Mice

Vemurafenib increases the effectiveness of a treatment that uses immune system cells modified to target cancer cells, according to a study in Cancer Research. When combined with vemurafenib, which targets melanomas with the most common BRAF mutations (V600), this immunotherapy treatment killed more melanoma cells in mice. The combination treatment was also more successful than vemurafenib alone. The researchers conclude that their work supports testing this combination treatment in people with melanomas that have BRAF V600 mutations.

Combining Dabrafenib and Trametinib Increases Melanoma Patient Survival

People with melanoma lived longer when treated with a combination of dabrafenib (a BRAF inhibitor) and trametinib (a MEK inhibitor) than with dabrafenib alone, according to research in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study included 247 people with melanomas that had BRAF V600E mutations. Treatment with both drugs increased survival to 9.4 months, compared to 5.8 months with dabrafenib alone. In addition, tumors were not evident or shrank considerably in 76% of people treated with both drugs compared to 54% of those treated with dabrafenib alone.

Primary source: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1210093