Nivolumab shows long-term efficacy in combating melanoma

March 12, 2014

Results of a new study suggest that a drug commonly prescribed to patients with cancer - including advanced melanoma - can halt the progress of the disease for up to two years.

 

Results of a new study suggest that a drug commonly prescribed to patients with cancer - including advanced melanoma - can halt the progress of the disease for up to two years.

According to the study, nivolumab (Bristol-Myers Squibb) allows the patient’s immune system T cells to attack cancer. The study examined the results of long-term use of the drug in a phase 1 clinical trial. Not only do the results show a fast onset of benefits, but also that the benefits can persist, in some cases even after patients stop taking nivolumab.

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University and other institutions followed 107 patients from 2008 to 2012. The patients had advanced melanoma and were no longer responding to other treatments. Participants received nivolumab intravenously every other week for up to 96 weeks. After a year, more than 60 percent of patients were still alive; after two years, 40 percent were.

Results of the study show that in some cases tumors remained the same size or shrank after treatment had stopped. Side effects were minor and similar to those seen in prior tests, the most common being fatigue, rash and diarrhea. These were most common in the first six months of treatment, and there were no observed cumulative adverse effects.

“These are striking results for patients with metastatic melanoma. This study provides the first demonstration of the long-term benefits this treatment approach can produce,” the study’s senior author, F. Stephen Hodi, M.D., director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Melanoma Treatment Center, said in a news release.

New clinical trials using nivolumab in combination with other immune system drugs to combat melanoma and other cancers are under way.

The study was published online March 3 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.