world of cancer

Drugs stop melanoma advancement

June 3, 2015
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) just wound up its annual meeting, held this year in Chicago. Doctors presented many fascinating clinical trial results to those in attendance. Though I wasn’t there, I’ve been reading news stories coming out of the meeting, details of which I’d like to share in some posts.

Nearly 60 percent of close to one thousand melanoma patients in a trial treated with a combination of two drugs had their cancer stopped in its tracks for almost a year.

The international trial, composed of 945 patients, showed quite promising results when ipilimumab (marketed as Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo) were given together. Both drugs activate the immune system to fight off melanoma tumors. In 58 percent of patients, tumors shrank by at least a third and held steady or shrank even more for an average of 11.5 months.

Dr. James Larkin, a consultant at the U.K.’s Royal Marsden Hospital, spoke to the BBC News. “For immunotherapies, we’ve never seen tumor shrinkage rates over 50 percent so that’s very significant to see.” He continued, “This is a treatment modality that I think is going to have a big future for the treatment of cancer.”

Doctors working in the field of immunotherapy envision the therapy could be a cure in the future for leukemia.

Melanoma is a nasty form of cancer that is the culprit in 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. In 2012, melanoma killed 55,000 people out of 232,000 diagnosed globally. Time in a tanning bed, too much exposure to UV rays from the sun, childhood sunburns, and certain genetic family histories all lead to this form of cancer. And melanoma can metastasize (spread)  beyond the skin to lymph nodes, lungs, liver, abdomen, bones, and even the brain. If you see a change in a mole (shape, size, color, itching, or bleeding), get yourself to a dermatologist for an examination. It could save your life.

photo courtesy of
photo of melanoma under a microscope courtesy of


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