ASCO 2013: Melanoma Patients are the Pioneers for Discovery


Let me start with what I already knew before the 2013 American Society for Clinical Oncology meeting a few days ago. Although there is some recognition of patients and caregivers at ASCO, industry and researchers take center stage. Yet, none of this progress would happen without the support of patients and caregivers. You enter these clinical trials hopeful for yourself but also with the genuine desire to help future patients. You rarely complain about side effects, prodding, poking or the everyday activities you may have given up. Patients are the pioneers making the discoveries happen!

So the big news at ASCO was happily Melanoma! It is certainly our turn to make up for 40 years of scant progress in therapies. Starting the line-up was the FDA approval of the mek/braf drugs. This promising therapy may be prescribed to patients as early as July. And hopefully soon available across the globe as well. I was informed that if you have progressed on current approved braf drug, then you may only have “modest” results with these drugs. These drugs have been approved individually, but docs may circumvent that and prescribe both. The application is in for FDA approval for the dual therapy however. So this new option will be most beneficial to those who are braf drug naïve (not had any prior braf therapy.) This is certainly a promising addition to our arsenal.

Immunotherapy news was exciting with many companies entering the arena. The Pd1/IPI mix shows early favorable results with 50% response rates reported. I look forward to the Phase III trial results! The other Pd1 widely in trial reported a 38% response rate and it should be interesting to follow any competing combinations that are pursued in the near future.

PDL1 is following close to the finish line in development. While the PD-1 drugs shut down the receptor on the T-cell, the PD-L-1 drugs shut down the receptor on the tumor. In addition, as reported on our forum, we are intrigued with the antibody-drug-conjugates or ADC pipeline. These drugs are older, but new for melanoma and have a fascinating delivery system. No need to be braf positive!

The competition is strong for melanoma drug development. The ASCO convention with 32,000 oncology professionals attending is a dizzying experience. A practical yet wishful idea we had at MIF was the savings that could be passed onto needy patients if industry could be held to a display budget limit. But the reality is many oncology professionals learned an enormous amount at ASCO to take back to their practices to benefit patients globally. And competition in the drug making world seems to benefit the patient exponentially!