New Discoveries and Honors in Cancer Research

Read the latest cancer research and recognition from the members of the Damon Runyon scientific circle.
May 30, 2016
Successful combined approach to treating metastatic melanoma

Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators Aude G. Chapuis, MD (’15-’17) of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Cassian Yee, MD (’01-’06), of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD (’03-’08), of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and colleagues, have successfully treated a patient with metastatic melanoma by combining two different types of immunotherapy, harnessing the patient’s own immune system to attack and destroy the cancer. The first strategy isolated pure populations of the patient's immune T cells that can target the melanoma and then transferred them back into the patient. The other approach used an antibody to activate the patient's existing antitumor T cells by blocking the function of a protein called CTLA4, effectively releasing the “brakes” on the immune system. On their own, both treatments can slow the progression of metastatic melanoma, but they are rarely able to send the disease into complete remission. These physician-scientists combined the two immunotherapy approaches in a patient with metastasized melanoma who had previously shown little response to either treatment alone. Within weeks, the patient's tumors began to shrink, eventually disappearing completely. Over five years later, the patient remains disease free. This combination represents an encouraging strategy to induce long-term remission for metastatic melanoma.  The study was published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.