May 11, 2009

Metastatic melanoma therapies in pipeline

Therapies are in the pipeline for stage IV metastatic melanoma, the illness Dr. Izzie Stevens faces in the ABC drama Grey's Anatomy, a U.S. researcher said.

Dermatologist Dr. Gary Rogers of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston said in stage IV melanoma the tumor has spread to a distant site and the remission rate for a drug used to treat advanced melanoma -- dacarbazine -- is 10 percent.

No studies to date show that chemotherapy or any treatment regimens are effective when melanoma has spread to other organs, Rogers said in a statement. The silver lining is that given the explosion in our understanding of the molecular biology of melanoma, there are a number of drugs and therapies in the pipeline that are being studied to treat the more advanced stage melanomas.

The goal is to find a drug that will target a specific defect causing cells to go awry, Rogers said.

Just as one shoe does not fit all sizes, we are on the verge of being able to tailor therapy to a particular patient, Rogers said.

Also, clinical trials are under way for an adjuvant Stage III or IV melanoma treatment -- the MAGE-A or melanoma antigen -- family A vaccine. Rogers estimated 60 percent to 70 percent of melanoma patients express the MAGE antigen so the vaccine could hold tremendous promise.