A “new war on cancer” is what the newspapers called it this week. The big news is that there is a new immunotherapy approach for treating skin cancer, presented by UK doctors at the American Society of Clinical Oncology recently.
The approach works by using a pair of anti-cancer drugs together, coaxing the immune system to attack cancerous cells that hitherto have been able to stay invisible to the body’s natural defences.
The results of other related studies were also made public at the meeting of clinicians in Chicago, offering hope to the 2,000 people a year in the UK who die of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.
The trial involved treating patients from several countries, including the UK, with ipilimumab and nivolumab which was able to halt their cancer for nearly a year in 58% of cases.
Cancer Research UK said the drugs deliver a “powerful punch” against one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.
Two approaches being developed
Dr Tony Downs is DMC’s lead dermatology consultant specialising in medical laser procedures, skin cancer diagnosis and management as well as general dermatology conditions including eczema, allergies, acne, and psoriasis.
For patients with advanced melanoma, the recently published advances in oncology are offering the potential of long-term remission.
“Two approaches have been developed,” says Dr Downs. The first are the drugs which target the MAPK pathway [mitogen-activated protein kinases, originally called ERK or extracellular signal-regulated kinases].
“This disables the ability of the melanoma to grow and spread.
“The second approach are drugs which bypass the ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors’ that cancers like melanoma evolve to prevent immune attack. Recent clinical trials show that combining more than one drug for both or either approach is more successful.
“There is a constant battle between the way cancers mutate to evade the immune system and the way the immune system tries to adapt and eliminate the cancer,” comments Dr Downs.
“These drugs may tip the balance in favour of the immune system for a lot of patients. As clinical experience grows, clinicians will get better at selecting the right combination of drugs for the right patient to maximise patient survival. Early detection and surgery before the melanoma has spread still remains the best way to cure melanoma patients.”
DMC Healthcare is a leading provider of Consultant-led community outpatient clinics for NHS patients in the UK. Our mission is to ensure all of our patients have access to localised, specialist quality healthcare in their community. We are continually assessing and redesigning our clinical pathways based on local NHS demand, in addition to primary care and specialist community care, our services now include clinical pharmacists in GP practices, minor surgery and dermatology clinics, specialist radiology reporting, reducing outpatient backlogs and GP training and education.
Find out more about us DMC Healthcare