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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

New Therapies May Mean More Life for Patients with Advanced Melanoma

Two new drugs, vemurafenib (Zelboraf) and ipilimumab (Yervoy), showing promise in slowing the progression of this skin cancer

March 16, 2012 – A hot topic at the American Academy of Dermatology’s 70th Annual Meeting today was the presentation on the recent reports of success in slowing deadly melanoma skin cancer – a major killer of senior men – with two new drugs, vemurafenib (Zelboraf) and ipilimumab (Yervoy).

Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is highly curable when it is detected and treated early. The same is not true for more advanced cases of melanoma - particularly when the disease has spread to lymph nodes or other areas of the body.

Recently, the two new drugs, both FDA approved to target the genetic makeup of melanoma, are showing promise in slowing the progression of this disease and, in some cases, extending survival in patients with advanced melanoma.

Two New Drugs Introduced for Advanced Melanoma

 

Related Archive Stories

 
 

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 - Feb. 23, 2012

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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Research has shown that certain melanomas have specific genetic abnormalities within the melanoma cells. With targeted therapy, the abnormal gene responsible for these melanomas is targeted in an attempt to undo the damage it is causing the cells, according to Darrell S. Rigel, MD, FAAD, clinical professor in the department of dermatology, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, N.Y.

Dr. Rigel noted in his presentation that while a number of targets have been identified, a gene known as BRAF is mutated in 40 to 80 percent of melanoma cells. This mutation causes the cells to grow uncontrollably and cancer to form.

  Vemurafenib: When a BRAF mutation is present, a pathway known as the MAP Kinase Pathway essentially gets “stuck” in the “on” position and the cells start growing very rapidly. The drug vemurafenib attacks the switch of this pathway (or blocks the “on” switch) so that the cells don’t continue to grow uncontrollably. If effective, the cancer is prevented from getting worse.

   ●  It's not a cure for melanoma, but researchers found during clinical trials that on average, patients who responded lived 6.2 months without the melanoma getting worse.

   ●  In some studies it was found that within six to 10 months on average, the melanoma cells develop resistance to the drug. In this case, melanoma cells either develop other Kinase proteins to sidestep the pathway, or they simply use another pathway that is not currently active. Either way, they activate to make cells continue to grow.

  Ipilimumab: This new targeted therapy blocks a specific molecule, which may allow the patient’s body to recognize, target and attack melanoma cells. Researchers now are looking at using ipilimumab in combination with vemurafenib, as they each block two different pathways – with the theory being that there is less chance for resistance to occur.

   ●  It's not a cure for melanoma, but researchers found during clinical trials that the patients who received only ipilimumab and responded to it lived about 10 months longer. For a few patients given ipilimumab, the results were dramatic — a few patients have had no signs of cancer for as long as six years.

Side Effects Can Pose Problems

Dr. Rigel cautioned that patients taking vemurafenib or ipilimumab may experience troublesome side effects and should be closely monitored by their dermatologist.

   ●  Studies have shown that significant rashes have been reported in approximately 40 percent of patients using vemurafenib.

   ●  One-third of patients taking vemurafenib developed multiple, aggressive squamous cell carcinomas (another common type of skin cancer).

American Academy of Dermatology Expert Advice

“Before vemurafenib and ipilimumab were introduced, beating advanced melanoma used to be virtually hopeless and now there is at least some hope for these patients,” said Dr. Rigel.

“Targeted therapy is still in its infancy, but already it has been successful in some cases of advanced melanoma. The technique shows that it will work, and I expect we’ll see even more effective treatments in the future as we fine-tune our targeting of melanoma.”

The Academy urges everyone to examine their skin regularly. This means looking over your entire body including your back, your scalp, your palms, your soles and between your toes. If you notice a mole different from others, or which changes, itches or bleeds, even if it is smaller than 6mm, you should make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

Statistics:
According to the American Cancer Society’s 2012 Cancer Facts and Figures:

   ●  9,180 Americans are estimated to die from melanoma in 2012.

   ●  In 2012, it is estimated that the number of Americans diagnosed with melanoma will be 7 percent greater than in 2011.

   ●  The five-year survival rate for localized melanoma is 98 percent, but the survival rate of distant, or advanced stage, melanoma is 15 percent

For More Information:
To learn more about melanoma, visit the Academy’s Dermatology A to Z section at www.aad.org and SkinCancerNet at www.skincarephysicians.com.

Do You Have Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and senior citizens are the usual victimes. 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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