Frequent exposure to UV rays without sunscreen or tanning beds can increase the risk of skin cancer, which affects 76,100 Americans yearly and continues to rise - about 9,710 people are expected to die from skin cancer this year. Nonetheless, treatment for skin cancer has changed dramatically in recent years.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that spreads to other organs in the body and is extremely difficult to treat with only a 15-20% survival rate for advanced melanoma patients.
However, new research, presented at the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, claims there could be new treatment for advanced melanoma. The results revealed from a 1b immunotherapy trail claims that a fusion of drugs may increase the survival rate.
Researchers tested the drugs nivolumab and ipillimumab on 127 patients with advanced melanoma that has gotten worst with their prior cancer treatment. Some patients received a combination of both drugs, while some received one or the other.
After 1 year, researchers found the patients who received the combination of nivolumab and ipillimumab had survival rate of 94% and after 2 years, the rate stood at 88%.
According to researchers, the tumor adequately hides in the body’s PD-1 and CTLA-4 pathways, which the immune system fails to detect and attack them. Nivolumab and ipillimumab are antibodies that block the CTLA-4 and PD-1 pathways, causing the immune system to pick up on the tumor and attack it. Nivolumab blocks the PD-1 receptors on the surface of T cells, and ipillimumab blocks the CTLA-4 receptors.
Another phase 1b trail was conducted by Merck Sharp and Dohme Limited, global healthcare companies, whom tested the drug pembrolizumab(MK-3475) on patients with advanced melanoma.
After a year, the survival rate was set at 69% and after 18 months, the rate stood at 62%. The drug also blocks the pathways so the immune system can detect the tumors.
Warwick Steele, aged 64, started his treatment with pembrolizumab and after 3 doses; scans show the cancer in his lungs cleared up.