Scientists at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) have identified biomarkers in melanoma that could help tailor immunotherapy treatments to maximize the benefits for patients while reducing the likelihood of severe side effects.
While the utility of these biomarkers needs to be validated in future clinical trials, the findings reported in Science Translational Medicine suggest that the current practice of combining two different types of immune checkpoint blocker drugs in advanced melanoma patients may be the best course in some instances, but not in others, because the immune makeup of some melanoma tumors may cause them to be resistant to one class of checkpoint inhibitors.
“By looking at how melanoma is avoiding immune detection, we may be able to identify patients who may do just as well with a single agent, with no loss of efficacy, but improved tolerability,” said Scott Rodig, MD, PhD, an oncologic pathologist at DF/BWCC and first author on the report. The study revealed that some patients, whose tumors are deficient in a protein needed for the immune system to recognize cancer cells, are unlikely to benefit from ipilimumab, an immunotherapy drug that blocks the CTLA-4 checkpoint, but which has potentially severe side effects. Therefore,
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