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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Advanced Melanoma Patients See Potential to Extend Life with Drug Combination

The first long-term follow-up results from a phase 1b immunotherapy trial combining drugs for advanced melanoma patients suggests longer term survival

June 2, 2014 - The first long term follow-up results from a phase 1b immunotherapy trial combining drugs for advanced melanoma patients has shown encouraging results — long-lasting with high survival rates — researchers report. The one-year overall survival rate was 94% and the two-year rate was 88%. It is particularly good news for senior citizens, who are the most likely victims of this most aggressive skin cancer.

First author Mario Sznol, M.D., professor of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center, is presenting the updated data at the 2014 annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

 

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Sznol, clinical research leader of the melanoma research program at Yale Cancer Center, was the senior author on the original study of combination immunotherapy that was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at ASCO in 2013. Jedd Wolchok, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was first author of the earlier study, and senior author of this updated research.

The trial evaluated the safety and activity of the combination regimen of nivolumab (anti-PD-1), an investigational PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor, and ipilimumab (anti-CTLA-4; Yervoy), given either concurrently or sequentially, to patients with advanced melanoma whose disease progressed after prior treatment.

"The treatment of advanced melanoma has changed dramatically in the last few years, but there continues to be a need to increase the number of patients who experience a long-term survival benefit," Sznol said.

"While these are phase 1b data, the duration of response and one- and two-year survival rates observed with the combination regimen of nivolumab and Yervoy are very encouraging and support the rationale for the ongoing, late-stage trials of this combination regimen."

CTLA-4 and PD-1 are targets for cancer immunotherapy because they are shut down the immune system's ability to respond to attack tumors. Antibodies blocking CTLA-4 and PD-1 enable a strong immune response against cancer by removing the brakes from the immune system.

Nivolumab targets the PD-1 receptor on the surface of T-cells, and ipilimumab targets CTLA-4 receptors. Both are manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which sponsored the study with Ono Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd.

Other authors include Harriet Kluger, M.D., Kathleen Reed, Matthew Burke, and Anne Caldwell of Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center; Margaret Callahan. M.D., Michael Postow, M.D., Naiyer Rizvi, M.D., Alexander Lesokhin, M.D., Neil Segal, M.D., Charlotte Ariyan, M.D., Ruth-Ann Gordon, Stephanie Kronenberg, and Blessing Agunwamba of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Xiaoling Zhang of Dako North America; Israel Lowy, M.D., Hector David Inzunza, M.D., William Feely, Christine Horak, Quan Hong, Alan Korman, John Wiggington, M.D., and Ashok Gupta, M.D., of Bristol-Myers Squibb; Michael Atkins of Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center; and John Kirkwood of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Yale Cancer Center: http://yalecancercenter.org/index.aspx

Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven: http://www.ynhh.org/smilow-cancer-hospital/default.aspx

What are the key statistics about melanoma skin cancer?

Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for less than 2% of skin cancer cases but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

Here are the American Cancer Society’s estimates for melanoma in the United States for 2014:

Ø  About 76,100 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 43,890 in men and 32,210 in women).

Ø  About 9,710 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,470 men and 3,240 women).

The rates of melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years.

Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans. Overall, the lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 2% (1 in 50) for whites, 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for blacks, and 0.5% (1 in 200) for Hispanics. The risk for each person can be affected by a number of different factors, which are described in the section “What are the risk factors for melanoma skin cancer?

The risk of melanoma increases with age – the average age at the time it is found is 61. But melanoma is not uncommon even among those younger than 30. In fact, it is one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women).

For melanoma survival statistics, see the section “What are the survival rates for melanoma skin cancer by stage?

Read more about skin cancer at the American Cancer Society.

 

Drinkable Sunscreen? Don’t Swallow It!

American Academy of Dermatology Statement on Drinkable Sunscreen

Recently, there has been media coverage about “drinkable sunscreen” that claims to provide sun protection through the ingestion of water that allegedly has been infused with electromagnetic waves.

The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) wants to alert consumers that this drink should not be used as a replacement for sunscreen or sun-protective clothing.  There is currently no scientific evidence that this “drinkable sunscreen” product provides any protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

Sunscreen is the only form of sun protection that is regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  Broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 has been scientifically proven to prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun.

The Academy continues to recommends that you still seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing and wide-brimmed hat, and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.  For more sun protection tips, visit www.SpotSkinCancer.org.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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