Skin cancer combo raises survival rates

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A combination regimen from Bristol-Myers Squibb for the treatment of skin cancer has demonstrated an improved overall survival rate when compared to a single drug.

The first overall survival results from CheckMate -069, a Phase II trial evaluating the investigational combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab vs. ipilimumab alone in patients with previously untreated advanced melanoma showed a two-year overall survival rate of 69% compared to 53% for ipilimumab alone in patients with BRAF wild-type advanced melanoma.

22% of patients who received the combination therapy achieved a complete response, compared to 0% of patients treated with ipilimumab alone.

These data were presented at The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2016 in New Orleans as a late-breaking abstract.

Dr. James Larkin, Consultant Medical Oncologist, The Royal Marsden, said: “Both nivolumab and ipilimumab have changed survival expectations in advanced melanoma over the last few years and these latest data show us that combining these two immunotherapies is an effective two-pronged attack against the cancer.”

“The overall survival rates observed using the regimen of nivolumab plus ipilimumab are very promising and provide further hope for patients and their families affected by this disease.”

Nivolumab is the first in a new class of medicines, called PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors. It has an innovative mode of action that works by harnessing the ability of the immune system to fight cancer. Ipilimumab has a similar mode of action but acts on a different receptor, called CTLA-4. Combining the two medicines means blocking both receptors at the same time, which then potentially allows the immune system to recognise and destroy tumour cells.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. In 2013 around 14,500 people were diagnosed in the UK and approximately 2,100 people died from the disease.