New drug helps fight melanoma

Researchers at the Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) have successfully trialled a new treatment that prevents melanoma from spreading and metastasising.

More than 14,000 Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and around 1800 will likely die. This breakthrough could change the way the cancer is treated in the future and ultimately save lives.

“These two trials have shown that these two different types of therapy can basically stop melanoma in its tracks, prevent it from spreading to become this potentially lethal advanced stage four melanoma,” said MIA’s medical director Professor Richard Scolyer.

The researchers conducted two trials and both proved successful in preventing the spread of the disease in stage three melanoma patients whose tumours had been surgically removed. The first trial involved participants taking immunotherapy drugs that reboot the immune system to attack the melanoma cells.

“Twelve months of these tablet therapies decreased the chance of the melanoma coming back  – compared to doing nothing – by 53 per cent,” said Professor Georgina Long, the institute’s conjoint medical director.

“So if your chance of your melanoma coming back and killing you is 50 per cent and I say you take these drugs for 12 months and I’ll reduce that to 25 per cent or less, that’s huge,” she continued.

“What’s more, because that trial is more mature, we also have a survival benefit and the decrease in the improvement in survival is we decrease your risk of death from melanoma by 43 per cent.”

During the second trial, participants received a combination of targeted therapies all of which blocked the action of a particular gene that is a known driver for melanoma. 

According to Professor Scolyer, the second trial (known as CheckMate) also reduced the rate of the disease returning by around 35 per cent, but it was too soon to tell if the drug improved overall survival rates.

“They only work locally, but don’t prevent the disease if it’s already spread elsewhere,” he said.

What do you think? Are you hopeful for the future in seeing Australian researchers make such a powerful discovery and leap forward in the treatment of melanoma?


Related articles:
Suntan drug could prevent cancer
Health tips for over 50s
Nine health mistakes men make