Local Peripheral Therapies May Boost Effectiveness of Melanoma Drug Ipilimumab

Young woman lookimg at birthmark on her back, skin. Checking benign moles

Malignant melanoma is a very aggressive type of skin cancer and the drug ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy) is one of the few treatment options available. Some recent findings have offered potential new options for improving ipilimumab by using peripheral therapies and help promote long-term gains from treatment.

Although ipilimumab is an immunotherapy drug that proved to be a huge step forward in treating melanoma tumors, the skin cancer treatment is far from perfect. Only 20% of patients who receive ipilimumab show prolonged, sustained responses to the treatment. While this is better than historic and most current alternatives, there is clearly room for improvement. It was against this background that research was conducted to learn about possible ways to improve Ipilimumab’s effectiveness.

The researchers performed a retrospective analysis on 127 patients with malignant melanoma who were spread across four cancer centers in Germany and Switzerland. 82 of the patients received treatment with ipilimumab alone and 45 received ipilimumab and local peripheral treatments like radiotherapy or electrochemotherapy. It was found that the average survival for the group receiving peripheral therapy was 93 weeks, compared to 42 weeks for the ipilimumab-only group. The outcomes for the groups changed to 117 weeks and 46 weeks respectively once the researches excluded cases of brain metastases due to unequal representation.

Local peripheral treatments are not currently part of normal malignant melanoma therapy and are instead used to provide symptom relief from the tumors. Based in part by the above findings, the researchers are currently trying to develop a more prospective clinical trial in order to get a better idea of the phenomenon at play. It is important to keep in mind that retrospective studies cannot be controlled easily or blinded effectively, issues which could combined with the small sample size to magnify or distort the observed results. The findings are enough to suspect, at least for now, that peripheral therapy may be capable of prolonging the effects of ipilimumab and hopefully more investigation will show this to be the case.

“Combining Ipilimumab With Local Treatments Improves Survival for Patients With Melanoma,” AACR web site, July 27, 2016; http://www.aacr.org/Newsroom/Pages/News-Release-Detail.aspx?ItemID=921#.V5tvpvkrJ1t, last accessed July 29, 2016.