New hope for patients with treatment-resistant melanoma

Patients with advanced, treatment-resistant skin cancer can significantly prolong survival by giving them two drugs that are already on the market, British researchers have found.

The study looked at patients whose generalized melanoma (that is, which has spread elsewhere in the body) no longer responds to immunotherapy treatments called “immune checkpoint inhibitors”, which neutralize the ability some cancer cells escape detection by the immune system. Researchers from the Hunter Institute of Medical Research and the University of Newcastle have found that two drugs already used in chemotherapy, azacitidine and carboplatin, make these patients’ cancer vulnerable again to inhibitors, which then allows the immune system to do its job.

“It reactivates the white blood cells to fight against cancer, explained doctor Joël Claveau, who is a dermatologist at the melanoma clinic of the CHU de Québec. This is an interesting advance because finally, it gives us an alternative for our resistant patients. Twenty patients received these two drugs between 2015 and 2017 to prepare them for a new cycle of immunotherapy. They survived an average of 47 weeks, and four of them are still alive. A British researcher said in a statement that some patients’ tumors appeared “frozen in time”, while others saw their tumors shrink.

Currently, Dr. Claveau added, there is growing interest in the combined power of chemotherapy and immunotherapy to fight cancer. “For Mr. and Mrs. Everybody who comes to see us and who unfortunately have relapses after their immunotherapy, a study like this encourages us to think that it might be a good idea to give them chemo again, and that afterwards, maybe they will become candidates for immunotherapy again,” he said. The results of this phase II study have been published by the scientific journal Cancer Research Communications.

Photo credit: Archive.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.