Two Experimental Drugs Showing Promise In Melanoma Fight
June 4, 2012

Two Experimental Drugs Showing Promise In Melanoma Fight

Researchers presented findings on Monday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago of two experimental treatments that treat advanced melanoma.

The two experimental treatments, known as Dabrafenib and Tramentinib, are being developed by GlaxoSmithKline and are showing promising results to combat the deadly skin cancer.

The researchers said that the trial on Tramentinib included 322 people, 214 of which took the experimental drug while the rest did chemotherapy.

Over 22 percent of those who used Tramentinib responded to treatment, compared to eight percent in the chemo group.

Those who used the experimental drug experienced a median 4.8 month period in which the cancer did not advance, and saw their risk of dying from skin cancer drop 46 percent.

Eighty-one percent of those on Tramentinib were still alive after six months of treatment, compared to 67 percent of those in the chemotherapy group.

"This is the first in a new class of targeted drugs that could benefit patients with melanoma who have BRAF mutations," Caroline Robert, head of dermatology at the Institute Gustave Roussy in Paris, France, said at the meeting. "The findings show that targeting the MEK molecular pathway is a viable strategy for treating many people with the disease."

The Dabrafenib trial showed at 70 percent lower risk of cancer progression, compared to those treated with chemotherapy alone.

The phase III trial included 250 participants who had not been treated with any drug prior to enrollment and who had been diagnosed with inoperable melanoma, 187 of whom took the experimental drug.

Half of the Dabrafenib patients responded to therapy, compared to six percent of patients treated with a chemotherapy treatment known as dacarbazine.

"These findings represent another advance for melanoma and form the foundation for further studies to evaluate the role of Dabrafenib in combination with other drugs," lead investigator Axel Hauschild, a professor of dermatology at University of Kiel in Germany, said at the event.

According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, there are about 76,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year in the U.S., and more than 9,100 deaths.

Glaxo announced last month results form a mid-stage trial showing that patients treated with both Trametinib and Dabrafenib lived for an average of 7.4 months before their disease got worse.  It also found that two percent of patients developed squamous cell cancer and another two percent developed small pre-malignant lesions.

Glaxo said it plans to file with the regulatory authorities to get approval of both drugs as single agent therapies.