Patients With Early-Stage Melanoma And Lung Cancer Among Those Standing To Benefit From Immunotherapy

Excerpted from: Advances in Cancer Research And Treatment: 2015 Year In Review

Immunotherapy, a type of biological therapy, is among the most promising areas of cancer treatment advances. This approach uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer. Patients with early-stage melanoma and lung cancer are among those who are particularly benefiting from immunotherapy.

The first trial of the immunotherapy Yervoy conducted in patients with Stage III melanoma appears promising, demonstrating an improvement by delaying cancer recurrence and improving survival. Yervoy targets a molecule known as CTLA4, which is found on the surface of T-cells and is thought to inhibit immune responses. By targeting this molecule, Yervoy may enhance the immune system’s response against tumor cells.1

A Phase III trial evaluated Yervoy as adjuvant therapy (in addition to surgery) and found that immunotherapy both reduced the risk of melanoma recurrence and improved the duration of survival. Overall 46 percent of patients treated with Yervoy were free of disease recurrence compared with 35 percent of patients treated with placebo. Patients survived without cancer recurrence an average of 26 months when treated with Yervoy compared with only 17 months for placebo.

For lung cancer patients, advances in immunotherapy are improving outcomes with several treatment approaches. Specifically, PD-1 inhibitors—drugs that block the action of PD-1, a protein that inhibits certain types of immune responses—are producing favorable outcomes in research. As a result, these drugs may enhance the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.

For example, findings from an ongoing Phase IB study show that for patients with previously untreated Stage IV NSCLC, the experimental anti-PD-1 antibody Keytruda results in high response rates and slows cancer progression.2

The researchers reported an overall response rate of 26 percent in previously untreated NSCLC patients. This compares quite favorably with any known chemotherapy regimens in similar patient populations. Importantly, the investigators report that responses are ongoing in 100 percent of responders.


1 Eggermont AM, Chiarion-Sileni V, Grob JJ, et al. Ipilimumab versus placebo after complete resection of Stage III melanoma: Initial efficacy and safety results from the EORTC 18071 Phase III trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2014;32:5s (suppl.). Abstract LBA9008.

2 Ribas A, Hodi FS, Kefford R, et al. Efficacy and safety of the anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody MK-3475 in 411 patients (pts) with melanoma (MEL). Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2014;32:5s (suppl.). Abstract 9000.

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