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Reported breakthrough in melanoma treatment

By kateclarke  |  Posted: June 03, 2014

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SOME "exciting and striking" results have been reached in a pair of treatment trails for skin cancer, it has been reported.

John Wagstaff, professor of medical oncology at Swansea College of Medicine, is part of a large trial of the two drugs being tested and he has said he is "convinced that this is a breakthrough in treating melanoma."

Both treatments, for advanced melanoma, are designed to enable the immune system to recognise and target tumours itself, with the findings released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago.

Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab both block the biological pathway which cancers use to hide themselves from the immune system.

Advanced melanoma - skin cancer which has spread to other organs - has proved very hard to treat and until a few years ago average survival was just six months.

But in a trial of 411 patients evaluating pembrolizumab 69% of patients survived at least a year.

The drug is also being tested against other tumour types which use the same mechanism to block attack from the immune system.

Nivolumab, was tested in combination with an existing licensed immunotherapy, ipilimumab.

In a trial of 53 patients, survival was 85% after one year, and 79% after two years.

Professor Wagstaff said the trial was blinded so it was not known which of the treatments each patient was getting, but he trumpeted "some spectacular responses."

However these published results are from Phase I, of early stage trials. Much larger Phase III trials are underway involving a wider spread of UK hospitals.

They are set to report their findings in about a year's time.

Read more from South Wales Evening Post

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