Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer that can be deadlier if it encroaches into the brain. If it reaches the brain, less than twenty percent of patients survive for more than a year with traditional treatment. However, a recent study with a new drug combination comes with hope for such patients and had proven to increase their lifespans for more than a year for 82% of such patients.
The drugs involved in the combination are ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo), also the part of the class known as checkpoint inhibitors. These drugs work to activate the immune system which shrinks the brain tumors in turn in many melanoma patients. It served to prolong the life of 94 patients from 28 medical centers situated in the United States.
Enabling the immune system of a patient to fight against cancer by such checkpoint inhibitors can lead to long term remissions from severe forms of cancer, like lung and kidney cancer as well as melanoma. Such a technique is called as immunotherapy. It may not work in every case but when it does, it may show wonders.
Dr. Hussein A. Tawbi, the first author of this study, calls it great news that may help many melanoma patients and other patients in general. He suggests that this drug combination should be made part of initial treatment for such melanoma patients and that these drugs should also be put under test for patients with other types of cancer that have reached the brain. According to his estimate, 200,000 patients emerge per year alone in the U.S. who develop brain tumors projecting from other types of cancer.
The results are not applicable for Glioblastoma or any brain cancer that has started with in the brain first. Dr. Tawbi mentions that studies with drug combinations are underway which can help such patients as well.