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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Metastatic Melanoma Patients Live Almost Twice as Long with New Drug

Zelboraf (vemurafenib) changes the natural history of the disease to extend survival - see video

A researcher describes the results

Feb. 23, 2012 - A new drug for patients with metastatic melanoma – mostly older men - nearly doubled median overall survival. More than half of patients who were treated with the drug vemurafenib, known commercially as Zelboraf, responded to treatment and experienced an impressive median overall survival of nearly 16 months – far longer than the typical survival of just six to 10 months for most patients whose melanoma has spread beyond the initial tumor site.

 

Related Archive Stories

 
 

Cancer Survivors Face Increased Risk of Melanoma; Melanoma Survivors Even More

Melanoma the most aggressive, dangerous skin cancer, fifth most common cancer among men, seventh among women - Dec. 19, 2011

Pre-Melanoma Skin Lesion Found Mostly in Elderly Successfully Removed with Laser

Lentigo maligna disappears as carbon dioxide laser exerts its effect by vaporization of water-containing cells - Nov. 21, 2011

Coffee, Favorite Drink of Seniors, Provides Protection from Basal Cell Carcinoma

Women get almost twice as much protection as men among 3-cup a day drinkers - see video - Oct. 26, 2011

Senior Citizens Facing Melanoma Should Worry More About Their Health Than Their Age

Patients with lower muscle density had much higher rates of their cancer returning – regardless of the tumor size or patient's age

Aug. 30, 2011

Vitamin D Appears Linked With Risk of Skin Cancer, Although Relationship Complex

Study looked at vitamin D level in senior citizens with non-melanoma skin cancers - Aug. 15, 2011


Melanoma Skin Cancer a Chronic Disease Causing Long-Term Problems for Women

Women need additional care, including follow-up and possibly counseling to optimally cope with melanoma - Feb. 21, 2011


Links to more archived news reports below this story.
 
 

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Results from the Phase 2 trial, led by co-principal investigators Jeffrey Sosman, M.D., director of the Melanoma Program and co-leader of the Signal Transduction Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and Antoni Ribas, M.D., professor of Hematology/Oncology at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, were published in the Feb. 23 issue of the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.

National Cancer Institute

Definition of melanoma: A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.

Estimated new cases and deaths from melanoma in the United States in 2012:
   > New Cases: 76,250
   > Deaths: 9,180

Melanoma Information Page at National Cancer Institute

See the online booklet What You Need To Know About™ Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers to learn about melanoma symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and questions to ask the doctor.

“This study confirms what we have discovered in our earlier trials. Many of our patients are exhibiting a strong, immediate response to this drug and some are living significantly longer, with manageable side effects,” said Sosman, professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“It was interesting to note that a few of the patients were treated with the drug for up to six months before showing convincing evidence of response.”

“This study shows that Zelboraf changes the natural history of the disease,” said Ribas. “These results tell us that this drug is having a very big impact, and this changes the way we treat metastatic melanoma.”

Approximately half of all patients with metastatic melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer – have a BRAF V600 mutation in their tumor. Vemurafenib is an FDA-approved oral drug which works as a kinase inhibitor of the BRAF V600 mutation.

While vemurafenib induced clinical responses in a significant number of BRAF-positive patients when it was approved last year, the initial clinical trials had not followed patients long enough to determine overall survival.

A total of 132 patients with stage IV, BRAF-positive melanoma were enrolled in the Phase II trial. All of the patients had received at least one form of systemic treatment before enrollment in the trial.

Forty-seven percent of patients had a partial response to the drug and six percent exhibited a complete response, for an overall response rate of 53 percent.

Debra Johnson’s melanoma had already spread to one of her lungs and her lymphatic system when she was referred to VICC for mutation testing. Her tumor was BRAF-positive and after more than a year on the drug, the wife and mother from New Site, Miss., says her scans are clear and there is no visible evidence of disease.

“This treatment has been an answer to my prayer,” said Johnson.

The majority of patients had at least one adverse event related to the drug, but most of these were minor. The most common side effects were joint pain, rash, sun sensitivity, fatigue and hair loss.

More than a quarter of the patients (26 percent) also developed cutaneous squamous-cell carcinomas – a less serious form of skin cancer - which were surgically removed.

A Phase III trial of this same drug confirmed significant improvement in both progression-free survival and overall survival with vemurafenib over chemotherapy in an interim analysis. The Phase II study is the first to confirm the durability of the response.

While the clinical trials for vemurafenib have been positive to date, the great majority of patients eventually experience disease progression.

“We are trying to determine what is causing this drug resistance and are searching for new therapies that we can use, perhaps in combination with vemurafenib,” said Sosman.

Zelboraf was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in metastatic melanoma in August 2011. About 70,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Of those individuals, 8,000 will die of the disease.

The Phase III research was funded by Hoffmann-La Roche Pharma. Thirteen centers in the United States and Australia participated in the research.

Source: Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC)

Do You Have Melanoma?

Scar after removal of melanoma from top of senior citizens head

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal or "ugly looking."

Thinking of "ABCD" can help you remember what to watch for:

   Asymmetry - the shape of one half does not match the other

   Border - the edges are ragged, blurred or irregular

   Color - the color in uneven and may include shades of black, brown and tan

   Diameter - there is a change in size, usually an increase

Melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated early. If melanoma is not removed in its early stages, cancer cells may grow downward from the skin surface and invade healthy tissue. If it spreads to other parts of the body it can be difficult to control.

MedlinePlus


Links to More Archived Stories on Melanoma Cancers

Screening for Skin Cancer Needs Better Guidelines, More Emphasis on Senior Men

Screening without regard for risk factors can be low-yield - only 1.5 per 1,000 people screened in a national program had melanoma

Oct. 20, 2010


Most Likely to See Basal Cell Carcinoma Return with Red Hair, More Education, Early First One

Senior citizen men are most likely victims of these skin cancers but if first is after age 75, less likely to get another

Aug. 16, 2010


New Substance Highlights Melanoma Skin Cancers for Early Detection by Hybrid Scanner

Could save thousands of senior citizens by detecting melanoma in its most curable stage

Aug. 11, 2010


Advanced Melanoma Appears Cured in Some Patients by New Ipilimumab Drug Therapy

Large Phase III clinical trial finds 67% increase in survival for this drug treatment (See Video) - June 7, 2010


UK Scientists Get Green Light to Test Vaccine for Melanoma Cancers

Hope it will reverse, and even cure malignant melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer

May 26, 2010


Studies Find Increases in Non-Melanoma, Melanoma Skin Cancers; JAMA Article Says It’s Chronic Disease

Senior Citizens major targets of skin cancer;  bout one in five 70-year-olds have had non-melanoma skin cancers, and most who were affected have had more than one

March 15, 2010


Study Finds We Are Winning the War on Cancer as Death Rates Decline Steadily Since 1990

For those under age 75, drop in cancer death rate between 1970-2006 resulted in about 2.0 million years of potential life gained

March 9, 2010


Faster Diagnosis of Deadly Melanoma Skin Cancers May Come From Infrared System

Doctors need to identify a mole that may be melanoma at an early, treatable stage to save the lives of thousands of senior citizens

Feb. 26, 2010


People with Most Moles are Most Likely to Develop Deadly Melanoma Cancer, Study Finds

Already well known that people with red hair, fair skin and those who sunburn easily are most at risk of melanoma

July 6, 2009


Most Melanoma Skin Cancers Found by Physicians are on Male Senior Citizens

These doc-detected cancers tend to be thinner, found on back, more treatable

April 20, 2009


Valentine's Day Gift Idea for Senior Couples: Screen the One You Love

Couples encouraged to examine each other for suspicious moles that could be skin cancer. Researchers estimate that 40 – 50% of people in the U.S. who live to age 65 will have nonmelanoma skin cancer at least once.

Feb. 2, 2009


Large Skin Lesions More Likely to be Melanomas; Scalp, Neck Cancers More Deadly

Screening becomes increasingly critical as rate of melanomas increases

April 21, 2008


New Type Drug Found Effective in Innovative Attack on Melanoma Cancer

New drug with chemotherapy more than doubled the time patients survived without progression of their cancer - Sept. 26, 2007


Skin Cancer Most Likely to Strike Wealthy Old Men

Top three skin cancers increase with age; but malignant melanomas decrease as men pass 75, says Northern Ireland study - June 11, 2007


Skin Cancer Information Targeting Senior Citizens Now on NIH Senior Health Site

NIHSeniorHealth.gov is based on the latest research on aging

May 31, 2007


Fastest Growing Skin Cancers More Likely to Occur in Men 70 or Older

Non-factors: age spots, history of sun exposure, skin type, history of melanoma - Dec. 18, 2006


Older Men Lead in Melanoma Deaths but Need Extra Motivation to Seek Screening

Melanomas increase 15-fold in 50 years – mostly in men over age 50

July 10, 2006


Researchers Find Success in Engineering White Blood Cells to Kill Melanoma Cancer Cells

New method of gene therapy developed at National Cancer Institute

August 31, 2006

 

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