Welcome back to my melanoma blog. My name is Sudhir Polisetty, and as a General and Surgical Dermatologist I pride myself in keeping up with melanoma breakthroughs. My first blog post focused on Nivolumab, a potential breakthrough melanoma treatment. Recently, I read a follow-up article on this treatment, which has produced lasting remissions in patients with metastatic melanoma.
Typically, melanoma is caused by melanin- forming cells that grow into a malignant tumor. Ultimately, it spreads throughout the body, including the liver, lungs, brain, bones, and lymph nodes. Bristol-Myers Squibb’s ‘Nivolumab’ works by forcing the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. As part of a greater experiment, Nivolumab and other immunotherapies disable PD-1, which is a protein that stops the immune system from attacking cancer cells. By disabling this protein, also known as the Programmed Death receptor, Nivolumb can continually force the body’s immune system to kill harmful cells.
Dr. F. Stephen Hodi, who heads the study, claims, “the durability of clinical benefit, now with long-term follow-up is fairly remarkable.” The results of the trial have been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, adding that the drug’s effectiveness may be greater in patients whose cases are not so advanced. Bristol Meyers is taking further measures to find a cure by conducting trials using a combination of drugs, as well as testing Nivolumab on other types of cancer such as kidney and lung cancer.
Once diagnosed with melanoma, a patient’s life expectancy plummets to around a year. Thus far, results have shown that 62% of patients were still alive after a year of treatment and 43% after two years of treatment with this drug. During my residency I witnessed many patients suffering from melanoma, thus my excitement about the potential of Nivolumab. I will be interested to see the data from later-stage trials, as well as if the results can be sustained over a greater length of time.
Learn more in the new report from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/03/cancer-melanoma-bristol-idUSL1N0LX1R720140303
Thanks for reading,