New Melanoma Therapy Saves Lives

New Therapies

New research could change the way Melanoma skin cancer is treated and, offer another method in reducing the growing number of Melanoma deaths in Australia.

Hope for Stage III Melanoma Sufferers

The Australian researchers trialled combination drug therapies (currently used for Stage IV Melanoma) on patients in earlier stages of the deadly skin cancer.

The trial showed the earlier application helped stop the cancer from spreading and prevent it from becoming a potentially lethal advanced stage cancer.

Who Benefits?

The combination therapy trialled is designed to block the gene responsible for the spread of Melanoma, the BRAF gene.

For patients who test positive for the gene, the therapy offers hope, as they are at high risk of the cancer developing into advanced and fatal melanoma.

Stage III Melanoma patients have a 70% chance of the cancer recurring within the first few years.

Stage III Melanoma Trial Findings

The trial found the therapy prevented Stage Three melanoma from recurring, and helped improve patients' overall survival rate. The drug therapy reduced the rate at which the disease returned by 53%.

Previously, these patients would just wait and see if their melanoma had spread elsewhere or would recur over time.

Stage IV Melanoma Trial

A second trial involved other end-stage melanoma drugs that worked to help boost the body's own immune system to fight the cancer.

For patients at stage four melanoma, there must be seeded deposits of cells that are not detectable. The therapies are designed to remove these cells, so patients do not get clinically apparent Stage IV disease.

The second trial also reduced the rate the disease would return by about 35%, but the drugs only work locally, and do not seem to prevent the disease if it has already spread elsewhere.

It is too soon to tell if these drugs improve overall survival rates.

About the Trials

  • 870 patients randomly chosen, 438 given combination therapy, 432 given placebo tablets
  • Estimated 3yr rate of relapse-free survival was 58% in combination-therapy group
  • 39% of relapse-free survival in placebo group
  • Overall survival rate was 86% in combination-therapy group, 77%c in placebo group