News from Illinois CancerCare

Advances in Melanoma Treatment

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. There are three main types, including basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), which are very common. Although these cancers are malignant, they’re unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, which makes them very treatable, especially when caught early.

Melanoma of the skin, however, is diagnosed less frequently than basal and squamous cell but is the fifth most common cancer overall. More importantly, melanoma is more likely to grow and spread, making it more difficult to treat. It has a lower 5-year survival rate than non-melanomas.

As a cancer center that is focused on both patient care and clinical research, Illinois CancerCare is making sure that the most advanced treatment options, in the form of immunotherapy, are available for patients with metastatic melanoma.

What You Need to Know

Let’s start with a refresher course on clinical trials and how they benefit patients. Today, people are living longer and experiencing a better quality of life due to increasingly-successful treatments that result from clinical trials. All trials are closely managed to ensure patient safety.

Before a study becomes a clinical trial involving human volunteers, preliminary research is conducted in a lab and with animals. The four phases of clinical trials are:

  • Phase I – How the drug is given, how often and dose safety.
  • Phase II – Drug effectiveness and continued safety evaluation.
  • Phase III – Comparison of new treatment to existing options.
  • Phase IV – Side effects over time by a drug already approved and on the market.

Each clinical trial is led by a principal investigator (usually a doctor) who creates a plan for the study called a protocol. It outlines the purpose for the trial, what drugs or treatments will be used, testing that will be conducted, the number of people needed, eligibility criteria and what information will be collected. This protocol must be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Immunotherapy and Melanoma

In this article, we’re providing an overview of immunotherapy for melanoma that has spread or returned. Antibodies are proteins created by your own immune system that can bind to substances in the body, based on specific markers (identifiers) on cells or tissues.

Monoclonal antibodies are developed in the lab to bind to a single substance. (Mono=One). They can either work on their own or they can carry drugs, toxins or radioactive materials to the cancer cells. This is known as immunotherapy, which is a systemic treatment for metastatic disease that reaches all parts of your body through drugs introduced into your bloodstream. They can potentially help in three different ways:

1.                   Kill cancer cells directly.

2.                   Block development of tumor blood vessels.

3.                   Help your own immune system kill cancer cells.

There are currently trials available that evaluate the effectiveness of the combination of two immunotherapy drugs in patients with advanced melanoma who have been previously treated, but their disease has metastasized (spread) or returned.

Both immunotherapy drugs are monoclonal antibodies that may interfere with the ability of cancer cells to grow and spread as described in #2 above.

Determining the response rate of using the combination of two monoclonal antibodies, as well as its safety following initial treatment is key to making this a potential standard treatment option.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. There are three main types, including basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC), which are very common. Although these cancers are malignant, they’re unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, which makes them very treatable, especially when caught early.

Melanoma of the skin, however, is diagnosed less frequently than basal and squamous cell but is the fifth most common cancer overall. More importantly, melanoma is more likely to grow and spread, making it more difficult to treat. It has a lower 5-year survival rate than non-melanomas.

As a cancer center that is focused on both patient care and clinical research, Illinois CancerCare is making sure that the most advanced treatment options, in the form of immunotherapy, are available for patients with metastatic melanoma.

What You Need to Know

Let’s start with a refresher course on clinical trials and how they benefit patients. Today, people are living longer and experiencing a better quality of life due to increasingly-successful treatments that result from clinical trials. All trials are closely managed to ensure patient safety.

Before a study becomes a clinical trial involving human volunteers, preliminary research is conducted in a lab and with animals. The four phases of clinical trials are:

·                     Phase I – How the drug is given, how often and dose safety.

·                     Phase II – Drug effectiveness and continued safety evaluation.

·                     Phase III – Comparison of new treatment to existing options.

·                     Phase IV – Side effects over time by a drug already approved and on the market.

 

Each clinical trial is led by a principal investigator (usually a doctor) who creates a plan for the study called a protocol. It outlines the purpose for the trial, what drugs or treatments will be used, testing that will be conducted, the number of people needed, eligibility criteria and what information will be collected. This protocol must be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Immunotherapy and Melanoma

In this article, we’re providing an overview of immunotherapy for melanoma that has spread or returned. Antibodies are proteins created by your own immune system that can bind to substances in the body, based on specific markers (identifiers) on cells or tissues.

Monoclonal antibodies are developed in the lab to bind to a single substance. (Mono=One). They can either work on their own or they can carry drugs, toxins or radioactive materials to the cancer cells. This is known as immunotherapy, which is a systemic treatment for metastatic disease that reaches all parts of your body through drugs introduced into your bloodstream. They can potentially help in three different ways:

1.                   Kill cancer cells directly.

2.                   Block development of tumor blood vessels.

3.                   Help your own immune system kill cancer cells.

 

There are currently trials available that evaluate the effectiveness of the combination of two immunotherapy drugs in patients with advanced melanoma who have been previously treated, but their disease has metastasized (spread) or returned.

Both immunotherapy drugs are monoclonal antibodies that may interfere with the ability of cancer cells to grow and spread as described in #2 above.

Determining the response rate of using the combination of two monoclonal antibodies, as well as its safety following initial treatment is key to making this a potential standard treatment option.

Trial Participation

According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s estimated that there will be 91,270 new cases of melanoma of the skin in 2018 in the United States. It’s anticipated that over 9,300 people will die of this cancer. Participating in clinical trials involving novel drugs and drug combinations is essential to decreasing the death rate of patients diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. You can find more information about clinical trials available at Illinois CancerCare at https://illinoiscancercare.com/clinical-trials/.

According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s estimated that there will be 91,270 new cases of melanoma of the skin in 2018 in the United States. It’s anticipated that over 9,300 people will die of this cancer. Participating in clinical trials involving novel drugs and drug combinations is essential to decreasing the death rate of patients diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. You can find more information about clinical trials available at Illinois CancerCare at illinoiscancercare.com/clinical-trials/.