Big break reported in fighting melanoma

January 31, 2011 8:31:01 PM PST
It might not seem the time of year to talk about skin cancer, but researchers have just reported a big break in fighting melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Some of the benefits are being seen here in the Delaware Valley.

Phillies fan Corky Corcoran had barely begun retirement when melanoma struck, not on his skin, but inside his body.

"I started hemorrhaging and bleeding," Corky said.

It took about 6 months until doctors realized Corky had metastatic melanoma, meaning it had spread through his body.

They surgically removed some tumors, but couldn't take all of them.

Doctors say current treatments for metastatic melanoma typically don't work very well.

So instead of receiving traditional chemotherapy, Corky was able to get into early trials testing a new drug called RG7204 .

It targets a genetic mutation half of all melanoma patients have called B-RAF. B-RAF drives cancer growth.

Corky says the new drug is easy to take - 4 pills twice a day.

But he's even happier about what it's done to his tumors.

"3 of them just seemed to disappear," Corky said.

And he's had no new tumors pop up since taking the drug.

Dr. Ravi Amaravadi of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center says the best result from previous drugs for metastatic melanoma was a 20-percent response rate, but with RG7204 the response is greater.

"Truly About 80-percent of patients benefited in some way with some form of tumor shrinkage," Amaravadi said.

But RG7204 does come with possible side effects such as a rash and fatigue.

And Corky is among the 20-percent of patients who had another side effect - less aggressive squamous cell skin cancers.

He's had 100 growths removed so far, but says he'll gladly deal with that, compared to the melanoma.

"This drug, if it continues to work as it has been working, it is fantastic," Corky said.

So far the results with the new drug are so promising the drug maker is now allowing patients in the trial who were taking other drugs for comparison to begin taking RG7204 .

LINKS: RG7204
RG7204 Phase III study
RG7204: An oncogenic BRAF signaling inhibitor


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