Breast Cancer Drug on Route for Melanoma

Melanoma patients may have a new option for the first time in nearly four decades

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) A phase III trial for a melanoma treatment drug, which is already on the market for breast and lung cancer, has shown promise. The next step is Food and Drug Administration approval for melanoma.

A recent phase III clinical trial tested nab-paclitaxel on 264 melanoma patients. The trial findings showed longer life with less cancer spreading compared to patients taking standard chemotherapy.

The lead researcher said, “Despite advances with targeted treatment and immunotherapies, there is still a need for new agents including chemotherapy treatments for patients with metastatic melanoma, as the long term survival of patients with metastatic disease is poor.”

"Talk to an oncologist about new medications."

Evan Hersh, MD, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, chaired the phase III trial to test this drug for melanoma. Dr. Hersh led the trial in hopes of providing melanoma patients with better chances against this tough cancer.

Dr. Hersh said, “Metastatic (spreading) melanoma presents significant treatment challenges due in part to limited therapies, low survival rates at diagnosis and no advances in chemotherapy in 37 years.”

Nab-paclitaxel (nab-P), brand name Abraxane, is already on the US market for the treatment of breast and lung cancer.

Researchers tested nab-P on skin cancer patients with spreading, end-stage melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer. For the study, 264 patients were given 150 mg intravenously on days 1, 8 and 15 every four weeks.

For comparison, 265 patients were given 1000 mg of dacarbazine (DTIC), every three weeks, which is a typical chemotherapy treatment used on melanoma patients. Each of the patients were given computed tomography (CT) scans every 8 weeks to determine whether the cancer was still spreading or had come to a halt.

Patients taking nab-P averaged 4.8 months of life without the cancer spreading. Patients taking DTIC averaged 2.5 months of life without the cancer spreading.

Overall life expectancy averaged 12.8 months for nab-P patients and 10.7 for DTIC patients.

Abraxane is more expensive than standard chemotherapy. The lowest cost found was $1040 per vial with a coupon. 

This study was presented at the Society for Melanoma Research 2012 Congress in Hollywood, CA from November 8-11, 2012. All research is considered preliminary until it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Celgene Corporation was responsible for the funding of this Phase III trial. No other possible conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 20, 2012
Last Updated:
June 28, 2013