Research Summaries

Using the drop-down menu below, read about highlighted scientific news for patients from ASCO's Annual Meetings, Symposia, and medical journals for the past three years. You can select a specific year, meeting or publication, and/or a specific topic, such as a type of cancer. Selecting "All" will take you to a complete list of articles that appear under all categories.

This includes ASCO’s Journal of Clinical Oncology and its scientific meetings, including the ASCO Annual Meeting, a five-day meeting held each May/June. To read the Annual Meeting summaries compiled into a yearly newsletter, you can also review Research Round Up: News for Patients from the ASCO Annual Meeting.Don’t forget to check out audio podcasts and videos about this news, as well. And a list of upcoming Symposia can be found here. And, in addition to the highlighted studies below, thousands of scientific abstracts are released each year at different ASCO meetings. To search the entire collection of meeting abstracts, visit ASCO's website.

June 2, 2014

According to the results of a large phase I study, a new drug called MK-3475 may benefit people with melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body. MK-3475 blocks the function of a protein called PD-1 (programmed death-1) found on T-cells, a type of white blood cell that directly helps fight disease. Because PD-1 keeps the immune system from destroying cancer cells, stopping PD-1 from working allows the immune system to better eliminate melanoma.

June 2, 2014

An early study shows that half of patients with advanced melanoma who received a combination of ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab, an investigational medication, were alive almost three and a half years later (40 months). That is nearly double the amount of time reported in earlier studies that used either drug by itself. 

June 2, 2014

Results from a large clinical study show that treatment with ipilimumab (Yervoy) decreases the risk of melanoma coming back after surgery by roughly 25% for people diagnosed with high-risk stage III disease. However, this treatment causes serious side effects.

June 1, 2013

In a recent study, combining a high dose of ipilimumab (Yervoy) with GM-CSF (Sargramostim, Leukine) helped patients with metastatic melanoma live longer than those who received ipilimumab alone. Both ipilimumab and GM-CSF are types of immunotherapy, a treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. Specifically, ipilimumab works to take the brakes off the immune system by targeting CTLA-4, a protein found on the surface of tumor cells that keeps the immune system from destroying the cancer. GM-CSF, on the other hand, is a growth factor that the body produces to help increase the number and function of white blood cells. It is commonly used to boost white blood cell counts after chemotherapy or stem cell transplantation.

June 1, 2013

Long-term follow-up of patients participating in an early study for advanced melanoma showed that nivolumab was able to shrink tumors and continue working for a longer time than other approved melanoma treatments. Nivolumab is a type of immunotherapy, a treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. Specifically, nivolumab targets PD-1, which is found on the surface of tumor cells and prevents the immune system from destroying the cancer. Nivolumab stops PD-1 from working so the immune system can get rid of the cancer.

June 1, 2013

Results from a new study show that the drug selumetinib keeps metastatic (cancer that has spread) melanoma of the eye from worsening and lengthens patients’ lives. Melanoma of the eye (also called uveal melanoma) is a rare cancer. Most patients with uveal melanoma are diagnosed when the cancer is located in the eye. But, the cancer eventually spreads outside of the eye to other parts of the body in about half of patients, and these patients usually live about nine to 12 months after diagnosis, so a drug that can lengthen patients’ lives is a major breakthrough.

May 15, 2013

Results from an early, ongoing study suggest that pairing the drug ipilimumab (Yervoy) with a new drug called nivolumab works better to shrink advanced melanoma. Currently, ipilimumab is a standard treatment option for advanced melanoma in many countries. Nivolumab, when used by itself, has been shown to effectively treat melanoma, as well as other cancers, in previous studies. Both nivolumab and ipilimumab are types of immunotherapy, a treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Specifically, nivolumab targets PD-1 and ipilimumab targets CTLA-4, which are both found on the surface of tumor cells and keep the immune system from destroying the cancer. These drugs stop PD-1 and CTLA-4 from working so the immune system can get rid of the cancer.

May 15, 2013

A new type of targeted immunotherapy (called MPDL3280A) was able to shrink several different types of cancer, including lung, melanoma, kidney, colorectal, and stomach cancers in patients whose cancer had worsened while receiving other treatments. Immunotherapy is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Specifically, this new treatment targets PD-L1, a protein on the surface of tumor cells that prevents the immune system from fighting the tumor. Basically, this treatment stops PD-L1 from working, which then allows the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

June 4, 2012

Researchers found that the drug dabrafenib reduced the risk of melanoma worsening and the risk of death from the disease when compared with chemotherapy in a new, large study of melanoma. Dabrafenib is a targeted drug. This treatment targets the cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Specifically, dabrafenib targets a mutation (change) in the BRAF gene, which is known to fuel melanoma growth. Another drug recently used for melanoma, vemurafenib (Zelboraf), also targets the BRAF mutation.

June 4, 2012

A recent study showed that the drug trametinib slowed tumor growth and lengthened the lives of patients who have advanced melanoma with a BRAF gene mutation (change). Trametinib is a type of treatment called targeted therapy. Targeted therapy targets the cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Currently, there is one targeted therapy approved to treat melanoma that targets the BRAF gene, called vemurafenib (Zelboraf). However, vemurafenib eventually stops controlling melanoma growth for most patients, highlighting the need for other treatment options. Trametinib targets the MEK protein, which affects melanoma growth similarly to a mutated BRAF gene, which is why researchers are studying this treatment for melanoma.

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