Melanoma treatment: 52% of patients with this diagnosis have chance to live at least 5 years

October 1, 2019  15:23

In the treatment of one of the worst cancerous tumors - melanoma - great success has been achieved, BBC reported.

Ten years ago, only one in 20 patients diagnosed with advanced stage melanoma survived for five years. Most died within a few months of being diagnosed.

Now, according to British doctors, 52% of patients with this diagnosis have a chance to live at least 5 years, thanks to immunotherapy.

Melanoma is the fifth most common type of cancer in UK. About 2,300 people per year die from it. If the diagnosis is made at an early stage of the disease, the chances of survival are high. However, if at the time of detection the cancer began to aggressively spread in the patient's body and form metastases, death occurred within 6–9 months after the diagnosis.

In clinical trials that took place over five years in UK hospitals, 945 patients with stage four melanoma took part.

A third of them received nivolumab, a third received ipilimumab, and another third received both drugs.

Five years later, doctors analyzed patient survival.

It turned out that they survived:

26% of patients receiving ipilimumab

44% of patients receiving nivolumab

52% of patients receiving both drugs

We were struck by such rapid progress for such a short time, says Professor Larkin adding that ‘we are talking about the most unusual transformation in the treatment of cancer, which was previously considered the most difficult to cure cancer.’

The results of the clinical trials were reported at a meeting of the European Society of Medical Oncology and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Usually, our immune system independently searches for mutated cells in the body and destroys them, preventing them from multiplying. However, cancer cells have found a way around this natural defense, which allows the tumor to grow rapidly.

2018 Nobel Prize winners in medicine, American James Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo, have learned to fool cancer cells and prevent them from blocking the immune response. This made a real revolution in therapy and formed the basis of a new class of drugs.

So far, these drugs have many side effects, but they have proven effective in the fight against oncology. Sometimes even patients with advanced cancer who were previously considered incurable can be cured.

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