Drug combination may be effective against deadly melanoma, pilot study shows

March 6, 2009

By targeting and disabling a protein frequently found in melanoma tumors, doctors may be able to make the cancer more vulnerable to chemotherapy, according to early results of a clinical study conducted by researchers in the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"In this pilot study, we gave patients with advanced extremity melanoma a compound that had been shown in pre-clinical studies to weaken melanoma tumors by targeting a protein expressed on the surface of the cancer cells. When chemotherapy was then given by infusion, it was much more effective compared to chemotherapy given alone," said Douglas Tyler, M.D., a surgeon at Duke and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and senior investigator on this study. "Not only was the treatment well tolerated but a surprising number of this small group of patients had their tumors completely disappear."

The researchers discussed their findings in an oral presentation on March 6, 2009 at the Society of Surgical Oncology annual meeting, and results of the study have been accepted for publication in the journal Cancer. The study was funded by Adherex Technologies, the company developing the compound that was tested in combination with chemotherapy, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Data from 16 patients treated at Duke and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center were examined for this study. Half of them experienced a complete response - or an obliteration of cancer - as a result of treatment, Tyler said. The compound - called ADH-1 - was delivered intravenously and the chemotherapy given under surgical conditions, through the artery and vein in the affected limbs.

Melanoma often affects people on their extremities, with a common scenario being a mole that appears on the foot and then spreads up the leg. Up to ten percent of patients with extremity melanoma develop multiple recurrences in the extremity that cannot be treated with surgery alone.

"These early results are very exciting because metastatic melanoma is one of the most deadly cancers and one which is typically very unresponsive to therapy," said Georgia Beasley, M.D., a surgical resident at Duke and lead author on this study. "The next step will be to continue testing the efficacy of this treatment in more patients, here and at other centers."

A larger phase II trial involving 46 patients with advanced extremity melanoma, using the same combination of drugs, was designed to try and better define the response rate in this population, Tyler said. This trial has recently completed recruiting patients and data will be forthcoming, he said.

The incidence of malignant melanoma is increasing at a rate faster than any other cancer, with 60,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed this year in the United States. Melanoma that has spread beyond the primary site is rarely curable, and treatment options are limited.

Source: Duke University Medical Center

Explore further: Altitude training for cancer-fighting cells

Related Stories

Altitude training for cancer-fighting cells

September 18, 2017
Mountain climbers and endurance athletes are not the only ones to benefit from altitude training - that is, learning to perform well under low-oxygen conditions. It turns out that cancer-fighting cells of the immune system ...

Theranostics: Paintball targeting of cancer cells combined with precision therapy

September 13, 2017
The Journal of Nuclear Medicine's September 2017 supplement shines a spotlight on theranostics and its increasingly important role in the delivery of precision medicine. Theranostics refers to the combination of a predictive ...

Pale is the new tan, dermatologist tells patients

September 11, 2017
There's a framed picture in Dr. Terrence Hopkins' waiting room at his Manatee Dermatology practice that shows a little girl in a bikini on a beach with a jarring combination of words printed next to it.

New study finds that lymph node removal isn't necessary for all melanoma patients

July 17, 2017
Many patients with melanoma need a sentinel-lymph-node biopsy to determine if cancer cells have spread there, but a positive finding doesn't mean all the lymph nodes in the area must be removed, according to new international ...

Linking of mutations in 12 genes to ovarian cancer may lead to more effective prevention

October 25, 2011
More patients with ovarian carcinoma carry cancer-predisposing mutations, and in more genes, than previously thought.

Employing dogs to sniff out cancer

August 19, 2015
UC Davis clinicians are hoping to greatly advance cancer screenings with the innate olfactory skills of man's best friend.

Recommended for you

New bowel cancer drug target discovered

October 17, 2017
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered a new drug target for bowel cancer that is specific to tumour cells and therefore less toxic than conventional therapies.

Using artificial intelligence to improve early breast cancer detection

October 17, 2017
Every year 40,000 women die from breast cancer in the U.S. alone. When cancers are found early, they can often be cured. Mammograms are the best test available, but they're still imperfect and often result in false positive ...

Many pelvic tumors in women may have common origin—fallopian tubes

October 17, 2017
Most—and possibly all—ovarian cancers start, not in ovaries, but instead in the fallopian tubes attached to them.

Researchers find novel mechanism of resistance to anti-cancer drugs

October 17, 2017
The targeted anti-cancer therapies cetuximab and panitumumab are mainstays of treatment for advanced colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, many patients have tumors ...

New assay may boost targeted treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

October 17, 2017
Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is an aggressive cancer and the most frequently diagnosed non-Hodgkin lymphoma worldwide (nearly 40% of cases). Recent advancements indicate that both the prognosis and choice of treatment ...

Biology of childhood brain tumor subtypes offers clues to precision treatments

October 17, 2017
Researchers investigating pediatric low-grade gliomas (PLGG), the most common type of brain tumor in children, have discovered key biological differences in how mutated genes combine with other genes to drive this childhood ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.