The Courier-Mail

Melanoma drug breakthrou­gh

- LUCIE VAN DEN BERG

HITTING melanoma with a double whammy of drugs can help control the disease and increase patient survival.

New Australian research presented at an internatio­nal conference revealed that combining two cutting-edge therapies could open up a new way of treating the most deadly form of skin cancer.

The findings represent a major advance for treatment of a disease that kills more than 1200 Australian­s a year.

In a human trial, the researcher­s combined two immunother­apy drugs, a new class of treatment that boosts the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. They found that using both Yervoy and a PD-1 antibody called Opdivo led to improved tumour shrinkage in patients.

Almost 60 per cent had a response to the two drugs and 11.5 per cent had a complete disappeara­nce of their melanoma metastases.

A second trial combined two targeted therapies, dabrafenib and trametinib, and found it could reduce the risk of death by 30 per cent, compared with using the first drug on its own.

The median survival of melanoma patients on the combinatio­n of drugs was 25.1 months, whereas the single drug was 18 months.

Associate Professor Georgina Long, from the University of Sydney and the Melanoma Institute of Australia, who was the principal investigat­or of the trial, said the findings were incredibly important.

“It is not often that combining two drugs improves things so significan­tly over a single agent,” she said.

She also said that some people treated in this manner might never have a recurrence of their melanoma.

“We don’t have the proportion who may be ‘cured’ yet,” she said. “We must wait and see over the years.”

The research was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

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