Beating Back Cancer for Up to 10 Years

Melanoma patients treated with ipilimumab survived up to 10 years

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) One of the most promising fields in cancer research and treatment looks at ways to enable the body’s own immune system to fight off cancer. This is called immunotherapy and is giving some cancer patients more years of life.

Researchers recently discovered that Yervoy (ipilimumab) is capable of giving some advanced melanoma patients up to 10 more years of living.

Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer that can spread to different areas of the body.

Patients who are alive after three years, the study found, could live for a total of 10 years after treatment.

"Ask your doctor about the latest medications to treat your cancer."

Stephen Hodi, MD, assistant professor of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, MA and colleagues from Germany, France and the US collected data on thousands of advanced melanoma patients.

The aim of the study was to precisely estimate Yervoy’s effect on long-term survival.

Yervoy is an immunotherapy drug, meaning it activates the body’s immune system to fight melanoma, a disease that will be diagnosed in nearly 77,000 Americans this year.

Researchers looked at information on 1861 patients in 12 prospective and retrospective studies. They also analyzed data on 2985 advanced melanoma patients who had not participated in a clinical trial.

The majority of the trial participants received the approved 3 mg/kg dose of Yervoy, but some received an investigational dose of 10 mg/kg.

Among the 1,861 trial members, 254 (22 percent) were still alive after three years.

“There were no deaths among patients who survived beyond seven years, at which time the overall survival rate was 17 percent. The longest overall survival follow-up in the database is 9.9 years," Dr. Hodi said.

A plateau in survival rates occurred at three years and extended to 10 years. This means that patients who lived for three years tended to live longer – up to 10 years.

Dr. Hodi explained, “"The plateau, which started at three years and continued through to ten years, was observed regardless of dose (3 or 10 mg/kg), whether the patients had received previous treatment or not, and whether or not they had been kept on a maintenance dose of the drug."

The median survival for the original group was 11.4 months. Median overall survival for the entire group of 4846 patients was 9.5 months, and 21 percent of all the patients were alive after three years.

Victoria Sharon, MD, DTMH, assistant professor of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery and director of Dermatology Inpatient Consultation at University of California, Davis, told dailyRx News, "Ipilimumab (Yervoy) is a recently approved medication to treat advanced stages of melanoma. Yervoy uniquely functions by encouraging the body’s own immune system to recognize and fight melanoma cells which have spread.”

“Preliminary data from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute,” Dr. Sharon continued, “promisingly reveal that of the 10-15 percent of patients with advanced stage melanoma who respond to Yervoy, some may achieve long lasting tumor control leading to an additional 3 to 10 years of survival."

Results of this study were presented at the 2013 European Cancer Congress (ECC2013). Before publication in a peer-reviewed journal, all research is considered preliminary.

Funding information was not provided.

Review Date: 
October 4, 2013
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014