Is Melanoma Breaking the Mold in Immunotherapy?

Published on

Topics include: Treatments

Dr. Sapna Patel, an assistant professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, discusses the latest in treating melanoma, particularly for patients with BRAF/NRAS mutations and what therapies are showing remarkable responses. Dr. Patel talks about using single vs. double agents and how treatments are impacting quality of life when compared to traditional chemotherapy. Learn how melanoma is breaking the mold in immunotherapy for one of our deadliest cancers.

View more programs featuring and

Produced in association with

Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Hello, and welcome to Patient Power. I’m Andrew Schorr. At the 2014 meeting of the American Society of Oncology or ASCO in Chicago, there was a lot of discussion about the biology of melanoma, what mutations are active and what drugs line up with that, what combination of drugs can help. Dr. Sapna Patel is a leading melanoma specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She sat down with us to explain therapies in melanoma, including the so-called NRAS mutation.

Carol Preston:

What is bubbling to the surface to you as far as what patients should be excited about?

Dr. Patel:

Well, it's a very exciting time in melanoma.  You're definitely right.  What we've heard so far is important combination targeted therapies, and so that is for patients whose melanoma has mutations in the DNA.  Those mutations are now what we call actionable or targetable, and what we find is if we combine multiple agents targeting maybe one or multiple different gene mutations, we can get some really pretty impressive responses.

Carol Preston:

So can you tell me a little bit more about the patients they're talking about, the kinds of conditions?

Dr. Patel:

Sure. So what we're talking about is melanoma patients with NRAS mutation.  NRAS is the second most common mutation in skin melanoma, and what we're hearing is that there's potential for combination agents to target this mutation.  Patients with a BRAF mutation, which is the most common mutation in melanoma have opportunities to receive single agent, targeted agents or combination agents, and that data is also maturing here.  We're hearing the difference between using single agent and double agents for these patients.

Carol Preston:

Any sense yet in terms of the quality of life with these combo agents?

Dr. Patel:

That's a really good question about quality of life in these patients.  I think ultimately these patients are finding the drugs to be fairly tolerable with some minor toxicities including skin rash and things like that, but in contrast with traditional chemotherapy much more favorable toxicity profile.

Carol Preston:

Now, ASCO 2014, as have other conferences in recent years really been focused on immunotherapy and targeted therapy, and that era continues.  Tell us about immunotherapy and melanoma.

Dr. Patel:

Yeah, melanoma is probably the cancer that is breaking the mold as far as immunotherapy.  We first began with ipilimumab (Yervoy) in 2011, where we heard some really exciting data that led to FDA approval.  And now we're maturing on that data looking at next-generation checkpoint blockade immunotherapy agents, and some of these agents are looking to be used in treatment naive patients or even patients who have received ipilimumab prior.

Beyond that we're looking to combine immunotherapy and targeted therapy and see what we can do to drive out the best response for the longest possible period.  And in addition to that there are certain centers that specialize in what's called adoptive immunity, so adoptive cell therapy for example that's at MD Anderson, the National Cancer Institute and at Moffitt Cancer Center is where we take the tumor T-cell, so the patient's own T-cells that are inside the tumor, we harvest them, and then we expand them outside the body so that the patient essentially gets an infusion back of really specific, tumor specific T-cells to try to fight their cancer.

Carol Preston:

So fighting our cancer with ourselves in other words.

Dr. Patel:

That's right.  Using our own, our own tools, our own immune system.

Carol Preston:

Very, very exciting for patients.  Any final message that you want to convey to patients as far as melanoma treatment?

Dr. Patel:

Sure.  Well, I think this is a really important time to understand while we've made some major breakthroughs it's still really important to participate in clinical trials.  This is how we figure out whether agents are safe and durable in the long term, whether we can start combining agents safely, and ultimately that leads to long-term benefit for our patients.  So although some breakthroughs are made, we shouldn't stop there.  We should continue clinical trial use and participation.

Carol Preston:

Dr. Saphna Patel, MD Anderson in melanoma, thank you so much.  Well, you hear it here that combination therapy, immuno targeted therapy, a lot of two steps going on with melanoma but exciting news for patients.

Andrew Schorr:

Special thanks to our reporter on the scene, Carol Preston, and Dr. Sapna Patel for bringing us the latest news in melanoma.

Be sure to be signed up for alerts on our website, so you’ll know whenever we post something new. I’m Andrew Schorr. Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Related Programs

Understanding the Significance of TIL Therapy for Metastatic Melanoma

Can the immune system be retrained to fight cancer it missed the first time around? Dr. Sylvia Lee explains the significance of TIL in melanoma.

Published:

Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma and Skin Cancer

Learn how you can identify the signs of symptoms of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer

Published:

Advertisement
Join Our Community Register for Events Read Our Latest Blog
Advertisement

Page last updated on March 24, 2015