Immune Booster and Ipilimumab Combination Extends Survival In Metastatic Melanoma Patients

Therapy extended lives of patients by approximately 5 months.

Therapy extended lives of patients by approximately 5 months.

Metastatic melanoma patients treated with ipilimumab survived 50% longer if they also received an immune stimulant during therapy, according to the results of a clinical trial conducted by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The combination therapy was found to extend the lives of participants by approximately 5 months, the study showed.

The clinical trial evaluated ipilimumab and sargramostim combination and ipilumumab alone. The researchers found that patients experienced fewer serious adverse side effects if they received the combination therapy, while median progression-free survival was similar in both groups.

“The two drug combination reveals the possibilities of combining an immune signaling molecule with taking the brakes off at the same time,” F. Stephen Hodi, MD, director of the Center for Immuno-Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the trial’s first author said in a press release.

The research appeared earlier this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sargramostin is a natural protein that encourages white blood cell growth in the immune system. Its typical uses include restoring white blood cells after stem cell transplants during cancer treatment.

Researchers described the clinical trial as pressing an immune system accelerator—the sargramostim—while simultaneously releasing its brakes-the ipilimumab.

The phase 2 clinical trial, conducted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, included 245 participants with stage 3 or stage 4 metastatic melanoma. Participants had received other therapies prior to entering the clinical trial. Researchers followed participants for a median of 13.3 months.

Despite the significant advantage in overall survival and toxicity in the combination therapy group, researchers could not explain the similarity in progression-free survival.

“It could be that the treatment is causing inflammation that looked like early disease progression, but we won’t know without further studies,” Dr. Hodi said. “This opens the possibility of improving clinical outcomes and decreasing serious side effects in treating advanced melanoma with ipilimumab.”