SAN FRANCISCO — Rhoda M. Alani, MD, FAAD, and Debjani Sahni, MD, discussed current and future targeted therapy and immunotherapy for patients with advanced melanoma at the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting, here.
“Four years ago, we had nothing to improve advanced melanoma patients’ survival, and now we have several new therapies available, with several others in the pipeline,” Sahni, an assistant professor of dermatology and director of the cutaneous oncology program at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a press release from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). “Although these developments are promising for patients, we don’t have all the answers yet. There’s a lot more research that needs to be done.”
The two physicians participated in the Novel Therapies for Cutaneous Malignancies: What’s New and What’s Ahead forum during the AAD meeting. Alani, a Herbert Mescon professor and chair of the department of dermatology at Boston School of Medicine, as well as dermatologist in chief of Boston Medical Center, discussed targeted therapy for melanoma, whereas Sahni focused on immunotherapy therapy.
Recently developed drugs that target BRAF mutations have proven to be effective in “turning off” cancer genes through blocking reproduction and survival pathways, Alani said in the release. To combat resistance to BRAF inhibitors, targeted therapy of MEK inhibitors were also developed, with the drugs now being used in combination, according to the release.
Targeted therapy can focus on specific tumors and allow for more personalized care, Alani said in the press release. A combination of three to four therapy drugs might be used in the future for more effective treatment, according to Sahni.
Immunotherapy drugs have also been developed for advanced melanoma, which allow the body’s defense system to attack tumors more effectively, according to Sahni. Immunotherapy has only been found to effective in a small proportion of patients with advanced melanoma, but it can produce long-lasting remission, the release stated.
Rhoda M. Alani
Sahni reported early studies have shown combined multiple immunotherapy drugs might provide more effective outcomes, although there is an increased risk of adverse events of the endocrine and digestive systems.
“This is a really exciting time for melanoma therapy. We’re doing all we can to make a dent in this disease,” Alani said in the release. “However, early detection is still vital. The sooner that melanoma is found and treated, the better the patient’s chance of survival will be.”