JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

New drugs in melanoma: it's a whole new world

Alexander M M Eggermont, Caroline Robert
European Journal of Cancer 2011, 47 (14): 2150-7
21802280
Current developments in systemic therapies for melanoma are spectacular. Over the last 40 years no one drug or combination of drugs demonstrated any impact on survival in metastatic melanoma. In contrast, in 2011 a number of new drugs will be approved. In 2011 immunomodulation with ipilimumab, a monoclonal antibody targeting the ligand CTLA-4, has been approved for patients with advanced melanoma in first- and second-line treatment by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and in second-line treatment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Also in 2011, a significant survival benefit of the combination of ipilimumab with dacarbazine compared with dacarbazine alone for first-line treatment was reported. Other monoclonal antibodies targeting T-cell ligands, such as programmed death-1 (PD-1), also show promise. Various inhibitors of v-Raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homologue B1 (BRAF) yield high response rates in patients harbouring the BRAF-V600E mutation. A significant impact on both progression-free and overall survival was demonstrated for vemurafenib compared with dacarbazine in a phase-III trial. Approval is expected in 2011. Both drugs had only modest effects of 2-3 months on median survival, so combination therapies must be explored. BRAF inhibitors in combination with mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibitors show great potential. Moreover, combinations of immunomodulators and pathway inhibitors are expected to be very active, and phase-III trials are planned. Pegylated interferon-α2b was approved in 2011 on the basis of the results of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) 18991 phase-III trial demonstrating a sustained impact on relapse-free survival in patients with lymph-node-positive melanoma. The efficacy of adjuvant therapy with ipilimumab is assessed in the now fully accrued EORTC18071 trial. Adjuvant trials with BRAF and MEK inhibitors are in the planning phase. Never was there a more exciting period in the world of melanoma treatment.

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