Survival Hope for Melanoma Patients Thanks to New Vaccine

“University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that a new trial vaccine offers the most promising treatment to date for melanoma that has spread, with increased patient survival rates and improved ability to stop or reverse the cancer.

“The vaccine, known as vaccinia melanoma cell lysate (VMCL), was given regularly as a treatment to 54 South Australian patients with advanced, inoperable melanoma over a 10-year period.”

Editor’s note: The cancer vaccine VMCL is a type of immunotherapy, which means it boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.


Genius High School Students Use Crowdsourcing to Find a Cure for Melanoma

“In a groundbreaking effort, 3,500 of the country’s top high school students will build the world’s largest wiki on melanoma research — and work toward finding that needle in a haystack to cure melanoma.

“The effort is led by www.SaveJordan.org, which will use crowdsourcing to drive user-generated content related to melanoma cancer research to a wiki site. ‘The idea is to bypass mainstream medicine and medical research and compile fresh ideas,’ saidJordan Guernsey, the 29-year-old father of two and Stage IV cancer survivor who is the force behind SaveJordan.org.”


Nintedanib Combined With Docetaxel Is Effective Second-Line Option for Advanced NSCLC

“The combination of nintedanib and docetaxel ‘is an effective second-line option’ for patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have received previous treatment with one line of platinum-based therapy, according to results from the phase III LUME-Lung 1 study published in The Lancet Oncology. The combination improved progression-free survival for patients with refractory NSCLC irrespective of histology when compared to docetaxel (Taxotere) plus placebo, and ‘significantly prolonged overall survival of patients with adenocarcinoma, including patients with poor prognosis (ie, those who had progressed within 9 months of start of first-line therapy),’ Martin Reck, MD, Lung Clinic Grosshansdorf, Germany, and colleagues reported for the LUME-Lung 1 Study Group.”


Chemotherapy May be Better for Certain Patients with Advanced Lung Cancer

“Among patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer without a mutation of a certain gene, conventional chemotherapy, compared with treatment using epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors, was associated with improvement in survival without progression of the cancer, but not with overall survival, according to a study.”

Editor’s note: The drugs discussed in this story, “epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors,” are targeted therapies that are used to treat lung cancer patients whose tumors have mutations in the EGFR gene, as detected by molecular testing. Scientists wanted to find out whether the drugs could also help patients without EGFR mutations. However, it was found that the drugs were no more effective than chemotherapy in improving patients’ overall survival. This supports the idea that EGFR inhibitor drugs should only be given to patients whose tumors have EGFR mutations.


Experimental Drug Shows Early Promise for Some Cases of Advanced Melanoma

“An experimental cancer drug that activates the immune system has shown early promise for advanced cases of melanoma skin cancer, researchers report.

“The findings come from an early stage trial of just 31 patients. But experts were cautiously optimistic about what the study showed: The drug’s side effects were manageable, and four patients saw their tumors shrink.

“That’s a small number, but a trial like this is largely aimed at seeing whether a drug is safe and finding a tolerable dose.”

Editor’s note: This story is about a new melanoma drug called IMCgp100 that is being tested in patients. Learn more about immunotherapy drugs and clinical trials for melanoma here.


Study Identifies Potential Predictor of Clinical Outcome in Patients With Lung Cancer Treated With the Investigational Immunotherapy MK-3475

“Among patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with the investigational immune checkpoint inhibitor MK-3475, those whose tumors had high levels of the protein PD-L1 had significantly better outcomes, according to results of a phase I clinical trial presented here at the AACR Annual Meeting 2014, April 5-9.

“Preliminary data from the trial, which were reported earlier this year, showed that MK-3475 treatment was well tolerated and led to durable, objective responses in previously treated patients with NSCLC, particularly those with tumors found to have high levels of PD-L1 prior to treatment. 

“The latest results extend these data, showing that at six months after starting treatment, 41 percent of patients whose tumors had high levels of PD-L1 had no disease progression, compared with 17 percent of those whose tumors had low levels of PD-L1. Similarly, 72 percent of patients whose tumors had high levels of PD-L1 were alive at this time, compared with 53 percent of those whose tumors had low levels of PD-L1.”

Editor’s note: MK-3475 is an immunotherapy drug, which means it boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. This study found that it was more effective in patients whose tumors had high levels of the protein PD-L1, as detected by molecular testing. To learn more about immunotherapy treatments for lung cancer, visit this blog post.


UPDATE 1-Amgen Melanoma Drug Fails to Improve Overall Survival Rates

“Amgen Inc said its experimental drug to treat a deadly form of skin cancer did not significantly improve overall survival rates in patients enrolled in a late-stage study.

“The company said the drug met the study’s main goal of shrinking tumors, as it had previously reported, but did not meet the secondary goal of improving overall survival in patients with melanoma.”

Editor’s note: Earlier results from this trial showed that the drug (called T-Vec) improved “progression free survival,” which refers to the length of time before a patient’s tumor begins growing again. Now, T-Vec has been shown not to affect overall survival times.


Motesanib Plus Carboplatin, Paclitaxel Extended Survival in NSCLC

“The addition of motesanib to carboplatin and paclitaxel improved OS, PFS and response rates in patients with nonsquamous non–small cell lung cancer, according to results of a phase 3 study.

“The subset analysis of the MONET1 trial included 227 Asian patients with stage IIIb/IV or recurrent disease who had not received prior systemic therapy for advanced NSCLC.”


Impact of renal function on treatment options and outcomes in advanced non-small cell lung cancer

Certain chemotherapeutic agents commonly used for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) require minimum threshold renal function for administration. To determine how such requirements affect treatment options, we evaluated renal function patterns in this population. We performed a single-center retrospective analysis of patients treated for stage IV NSCLC from 2000 to 2007. Associations between patient characteristics, calculated creatinine clearance (CrCl), and clinical outcomes were determined.

In this cohort of patients treated for stage IV NSCLC, renal function falls below commonly used thresholds for cisplatin and for pemetrexed in fewer than a quarter of patients. However, these declines may preclude administration of these drugs for prolonged periods.