Combination Therapy Encouraging for Metastatic Melanoma

Combination Therapy Encouraging for Metastatic Melanoma

The treatment combination consisting of interferon-alpha, thymosin-alpha 1 and dacarbazine provides encouraging anti-cancer responses for metastatic melanoma, according to a recent article in the publication Melanoma Research.

Melanoma is a cancer of the skin that usually begins in the form of a mole. The cancer can grow deep into the skin and spread to different parts of the body through blood or lymph vessels. It usually spreads first to lymph nodes that are near the site of cancer origin and when advanced, can spread to organs and other lymph nodes throughout the body. Treatment for advanced or metastatic melanoma may consist of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and/or biologic therapy. However, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with this disease is poor, as melanoma typically does not respond well to standard therapies.

Interferon-alpha and thymosin-alpha 1 are both synthetically produced agents that simulate naturally occurring substances produced by the body which stimulate the immune system. Interferon-alpha has shown to produce anti-cancer effects in the treatment of melanoma. Thymosin-alpha 1, a relatively new agent, has been studied extensively in the treatment of hepatitis and AIDS. Thymosin is produced by the thymus gland and stimulates the initiation of a cascade of immune events including the maturation of T-cells (immune cells involved in the direct attack of foreign cells). Dacarbazine (DTIC) is a standard chemotherapy agent used for the treatment of melanoma.

Researchers from Italy recently conducted a small clinical trial evaluating the combination of interferon-alpha, thymosin-alpha 1 and DTIC for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Following treatment, 50% of patients achieved an anti-cancer response, with 25% achieving a complete disappearance of their cancer. The average duration of survival was nearly 1 year with an average time to disease progression of 5.5 months. No patients discontinued therapy or required a dose reduction due to side effects. All patients were treated on an outpatient basis.

These results are encouraging for metastatic melanoma, as response rates and average survival for this disease are typically poor. Patients with metastatic melanoma may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participation in a clinical trial further evaluating this combination or other novel treatment regimens. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include comprehensive, easy-to-use listing services provided by the National Cancer Institute ( and also provides personalized clinical trial searches on behalf of patients. (Melanoma Research, Vol 10, pp 189-192, 2000)

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