MPIP: Melanoma Patients Information Page

The MPIP is the oldest and largest community of people affected by melanoma hosted through the Melanoma Research Foundation. It is designed to provide support and information to caregivers, patients, family and friends. Once you have been touched by melanoma—either as a patient or as a family member or friend of a patient—you become part of a community. It is not a community anyone joins willingly. But if you must be part of this group, you will find no better place to find the tools you need in your journey with this cancer, and the friends who can make that journey more bearable.

The information on the bulletin board is open and accessible to everyone. To add a new topic or to post a reply, you must be a registered user. Please note that you will be able to post both topics and replies anonymously even though you are logged in. All posts must abide by MRF posting policies.

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Anonymous's picture
Replies 1
Last reply 6/5/2013 - 4:32pm
Replies by: Tim--MRF

Hi Tim,


Thank you so much for keeping us updated  at Asco.


The news regarding anti-PD1 for BMS & Merck was very encouraging.


Based on input at Asco & your many years with MRF, what is your best guess when you think that FDA will realistically approve anti-PD1. If you were a betting man, which pharaceutical company do you think will get approval first?


Thanks for helping all of us.



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News June 02, 2013

Adding GM CSF to Ipilimumab Extends Survival in Metastatic Melanoma


IMNG Medical Media,  2013 Jun 02 , MJ Dales

Dr. F. Stephen Hodi, Jr.

CHICAGO (IMNG) – Combining two approved therapies – GM CSF and ipilimumab – extended overall survival rates by 35% and resulted in fewer grade 3-5 adverse events when compared with ipilimumab alone in a randomized study of 245 patients with metastatic melanoma.

At 1 year, the overall survival rate in the combination therapy group was 69%, with a median follow-up of nearly 18 months. At 1 year, survival in the ipilimumab-only group was 53% with a median follow-up of nearly 13 months, Dr. F. Stephen Hodi, Jr. reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

This is the first phase II trial to look at ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol-Myers Squibb) and the granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM CSF) sargramostim (Leukine, Sanofi) in combination in any cancer, said Dr. Hodi, the principal investigator for the trial, which was conducted by the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group (formerly the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group) trial. In this study, ipilimumab was used at a dose of 10 mg/kg, which is higher than the FDA-approved dose of 3 mg/kg.

“We are waiting for the data to mature in ongoing studies examining the relative efficacy of 3 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg dosing,” said Dr. Hodi, director of the melanoma center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The results in the current trial are another indication of the impact that immunotherapy can have for patients with advanced melanoma. Since both GM CSF and ipilimumab are commercially available, oncologists need to determine the best way to apply these findings in everyday practice. The next step will then be to define the role of GM CSF in combination with other immune checkpoint targeting drugs, such as therapies that target the PD-1 and PD-L1 pathway, he said.

“We have been using GM CSF in melanoma as a stand-alone therapy,” Dr. Lynn M. Schuchter, the C. Willard Robinson Professor of Hematology-Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and an expert on melanoma, said at a press conference where the study results were announced. “It will be interesting to see if payers will cover this (combination treatment).”

Ipilimumab targets CTLA-4, a protein that keeps immune T-cells in an inactive state. GM CSF is a growth factor commonly used to boost white blood cell counts after chemotherapy or stem cell transplantation.

For this study, 245 patients were randomized to receive ipilimumab plus GM CSF or ipilimumab alone. All study participants were in otherwise good health, with an ECOG performance status of 0-1 and adequate end-organ function, no autoimmune disease, and no prior use of CTLA-4 blockade or CD137 agonists. All had radiographically measurable metastatic melanoma, but with no CNS metastases, and had received up to one prior treatment over 4 weeks before starting in the trial.

The 123 patients randomized to the combination therapy were given sargramostim at 250 micrograms injected subcutaneously on day 1-14 of a 21 day cycle. For induction therapy, ipilimumab was given at a dose of 10 mg/kg intravenously once every 3 weeks for four cycles as induction therapy and once every 12 weeks as maintenance therapy. The 122 patients randomized to ipilimumab alone received the drug on the same schedule.

In both study arms, tumor shrinkage rates were comparable at 11% and 14%, and progression-free survival was similar at about 3 months. But the overall survival rate was longer in the combination treatment arm. One year after the start of therapy and with a median follow-up of 13.3 months, 69% of patients given the combination therapy and 53% of those who got ipilimumab alone were still alive, for a 35% lower risk of death with the combination therapy (hazard ratio, 0.64; P = .014).

Additionally, the combination treatment was associated with fewer serious side effects, compared with ipilimumab alone. The most significant differences were in lung and gastrointestinal toxicities.

Grade 3-5 adverse events occurred in 45% of patients given the combination therapy and in 57% given ipilimumab alone (p2 = 0.078). There were two possible treatment-related deaths in the combination arm (one colonic perforation and one cardiac arrest) and 7 possible treatment-related deaths in the ipilimumab-only arm: (two cases of multi-organ failure, two colonic perforations, one case of liver failure, and two cases of respiratory failure).

The research was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute (Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program), Sanofi, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Hodi disclosed receiving research funding and a being a consultant or in an advisory role with Bristol-Myers Squibb.





News June 03, 2013

Selumetinib is First Therapy to Shrink Uveal Melanomas


IMNG Medical Media,  2013 Jun 03 , MJM Dales

Dr. Richard D. Carvajal

CHICAGO (IMNG) – Selumetinib, an investigational MEK 1/2 inhibitor, shrank uveal melanomas in half of all treated patients, with a duration of disease control that was more than twice that achieved with the comparator therapy temozolomide, based on the final analysis of data from 98 patients in a phase II crossover study.

This is the first clinical trial to identify a drug that improves clinical outcome in patients with advanced melanoma of the eye, said Dr. Richard D. Carvajal, who presented the data at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“Selumetinib is a new standard of therapy for uveal metastatic melanoma,” he said at a press conference announcing the results. Before this study, there was no evidence that any systemic therapy was truly effective in this disease. In eight different clinical trials conducted in the last decade, 2 of 157 patients have responded to potential new therapies, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

With about 2,000 cases diagnosed each year in the United States, uveal melanoma is an orphan disease that is biologically distinct from cutaneous melanoma. Treatment consists of surgery to remove the tumor or eye, as well as radiation therapy or chemotherapy. About half of cases metastasize, and survival for these patients is 9-12 months.

In this study, 98 patients with metastatic melanoma of the eye were randomly assigned to receive selumetinib or temozolomide (Temodar), with 48 receiving selumetinib and 50 receiving temozolomide. Based on imaging studies using RECIST (Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors), patients whose disease worsened on temozolomide were permitted to cross over to selumetinib.

Looking at the response patterns, tumors regressed in 11% (RECIST response, 0%) of 46 evaluable patients in the temozolomide arm and in 50% (RECIST response, 15%) of 46 evaluable patients in the selumetinib arm, for a highly significant hazard ratio of 0.46, reported Dr. Carvajal of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Progression-free survival was improved to nearly 16 weeks for selumetinib as compared with 7 weeks for temozolomide. Overall survival was 10.8 months for selumetinib and 9.4 months with temozolomide.

More than 90% of patients in both arms of the study had metastatic liver disease and more than 50% had an elevated lactate dehydrogenase, Dr. Carvajal noted. Further, the study allowed for crossover to selumetinib by temozolomide-treated patients with no evidence of response at 4 weeks; 80% of patients in the temozolomide arm crossed over to selumetinib.

Selumetinib blocks the MEK protein, a key component of the MAPK pathway, which is activated by Gnaq and Gna11 gene mutations, found in 84% of the uveal melanoma patients in the study. Selumetinib also is being investigated for the treatment of cancers of the thyroid and lung, and trials are underway with selumetinib in combination with other drugs.

Dr. Carvajal noted that another MEK inhibitor, trametinib (Mekinist, GlaxoSmithKline), recently became the first MEK inhibitor to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Trametinib was approved in May 2013 as a single-agent oral treatment for unresectable or metastatic melanoma in adult patients with BRAF V600E or V600K mutations.

AstraZeneca is developing selumetinib under a licensing agreement with Array Biopharma.

The selumetinib study was supported in part by a Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Career Development Award, the National Institutes of Health, Cycle for Survival, and the Fund for Ophthalmic Knowledge. Dr. Carvajal had no relevant financial disclosures.



News June 02, 2013

Nivolumab Activity is Durable in Advanced Melanoma

IMNG Medical Media,  2013 Jun 02 , MJ Dales

Dr. Mario Sznol

CHICAGO – Nivolumab, an investigational PD-1 inhibitor, shrank tumors by at least 30% in 33 of 107 pretreated patients with metastatic melanoma, based on results from an expanded phase I trial reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

An additional 11% of patients had prolonged stable disease or non-conventional, immune-related response profiles.

The findings build on favorable initial results reported at last year’s annual meeting for nivolumab in melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, and nonsmall cell lung cancer. The latest results in melanoma patients at follow-ups as long as 2 years indicate no new safety signals with nivolumab, which was associated with a 21% rate of grade 3-4 events. The rate of severe immune-related adverse events was 5%, and there were no cases of grade 3 or higher pneumonitis.

Median overall survival was nearly 17 months with nivolumab, with a 2-year survival rate of 43%. Median overall survival with vemurafenib (Zelboraf) is 16 months and with ipilimumab (Yervoy) is 10 months, with 2-year survival rates of 24% to 33% with ipilimumab, according to Dr. Mario Sznol, who presented the results from the phase I trial.

“We’re very excited that there is potential for even more activity [with nivolumab] in combination with other drugs,” said Dr. Sznol, professor of medicine (medical oncology) at the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn.

Responses were seen at all five dose levels tested (0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, and 10 mg/kg), with a 41% objective response rate at the 3 mg/kg dose, which has been selected for evaluation in phase III studies.

Median overall survival across all doses of nivolumab was 16.8 months. It reached 20.3 months for the 3 mg/kg dose. The 1-year survival rate was 62% and the 2-year survival rate, 43%.

Patients in the nivolumab trial were representative of typical patients with advanced melanoma, Dr. Sznol said. All patients in the study had disease that worsened despite prior standard systemic therapies, 25% of them had three or more prior therapies and 63% had two or more prior therapies.

All had ECOG performance standards of 0 or 1. Patients received up to 12 cycles of treatment, with four doses of nivolumab per cycle, until discontinuation criteria were met.

Response has persisted after stopping treatment in 17 of 33 patients, with 12 of the 17 continuing to respond for at least 4 months, Dr. Sznol said.

The overall objective response rate included partial and complete responses. Dr. Sznol acknowledged that just one patient had a verified complete response to nivolumab and four others had near complete responses at 2 years. Historical response rates to immunotherapy drugs are 5%-10% in advanced melanoma, he noted, which is lower than the 30% response seen in these pretreated patients.

“I have seen a few relapses after 2 years of response, but some patients continue to do well at 4 years. One patient who has been off nivolumab for 2 years continues to do well at over 4 years,” Dr. Sznol commented during a question and answer session.

To define the best candidates for nivolumab, molecular markers need to be identified to predict probable response, he added. As nivolumab is a PD-1 inhibitor, one potential marker is the protein PD-L1 on the surface of tumor cells, which is being studied in several other clinical trials.

The research was supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Sznol disclosed that he serves in a consultant or advisory role with Bristol-Myers Squibb.




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Alanamaranto22's picture
Replies 15
Last reply 6/5/2013 - 2:15am

I apologize for constantly posting but I am really on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My main reason for this post is to find out if anyone on here has Ulcerated Polypoid Nodular Melanoma? I'm just in need of some sort of hope and moral support. I've been told that this, in addition to its characteristics is the worst of melanomas. Even if caught very early, the overall five year survival rate is less than 40%. The reason the majority of those with this type of melanoma don't survive very long after diagnosis is because they are unaware they have it and by the time they do decide they need to have it checked its well in the advanced stage. Of course I let mine go for more than two years thinking it was a normal wart. This melanoma is the most aggressive and I have to admit- I am very scared. I wasn't feeling well and was constantly fatigued and feeling ill before I decided to go to my doctors and have it checked. I just want to hear from someone with this type to give me a little hope- that there is hope (not that I would want anyone to have this or any form of cancer). I just need some serious support.

I am somewhat familiar with the medical field as I only had two semesters left in college to become a registered nurse. Unfortunately, I had a severe back injury that left me disabled. I have really researched and educated myself with melanoma, specifically Polypoid Nodular Melanoma with ulceration. I'm by no means an expert but I do want to educate myself as much as I can to be more proactive and involved in decision making with treatment of this. If anyone has this type or knows of someone with that type please reply. I really need some support and hope.

Thank you kindly for being such a supportive, positive and caring support group.


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Just wanted to see how many stage 3A--ers have gone through or are considering Interferon. 




 Melissa G

<3 Melissa

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Tim--MRF's picture
Replies 4
Last reply 6/4/2013 - 7:20pm
Replies by: LibbyinVA, Anonymous, POW, Tina D

Another ASCO has wrapped up, and it was a great meeting for melanoma.  I have reported on some of the earlier findings, but want to say a word about another drug.

We have heard a lot about anti-PD1, and both Merck and BMS have drugs that are very promising.  Some companies, including Genentech, are working on anti PD-L-1.  This is the counterpart to PD-1.  T-cells express PD-1 and when tumor cells have PD-L-1 the two compounds connect.  This connection turns off the T-cells and prevents the immune system from attacking the tumor.  The PD-1 drugs shut down the receptor on the T-cell.  The PD-L-1 drugs shut down the receptor on the tumor.

PD-L-1 also interacts with a second control mechanism on T-cells called B,1,7.  By blocking PD-L-1 you turn off two different braking mechanisms in the T-cell.  Early studies in multiple tumors show positive responses and very few side effects.  Genentech is trying to decide what the next step is, and what cancers to use in subsequent trials.  Since 40% of melanomas have PD-L-1 let's hope they choose to pursue melanoma as an area for further study!

I also met with people from Caris, a company that does genetic profiling of tumors.  The idea is to determine what mutations are driving the tumor and come up with a treatment plan based on those mutations.  This is the promise of personalized medicine.  A lot remains to be done, but they have had some real wins with this approach.


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flvermonter's picture
Replies 6
Last reply 6/4/2013 - 7:20pm

Hi, I am on again and stressed but on the computer.  Don't want my husband to feel my stress on top of his own.   We go down to Tampa for Dr Zager removing the rest of the lymph nodes on his right side.  We were told 2 - 3 days in the hospital, with first night in icu.  Will have a drain for 4-6 weeks, and lung surgery on 6/20 with Dr Toloza at Moffit.  That surgery will result in about 5 days in the hospital.


One good thing is his stress test last week was ok and the cardiologist gave his permission for the surgeries.  I guess I am just worrying about what will be next.  He feels fine physically so no symptons.  I have questions about after the surgeries.  Will he had radiation for the melanoma and the lung cancer?  Both doctors mentioned probably radiation treatment.  Not sure how that works other than I hear 5 days a week for 6 weeks.

None of the doctors said any more about the spot on his liver and as I read the doctors notes (THorasic and Melanoma), it states how all the tumors are growing, since the pet scan.  I guess I am looking to relieve stress typing on the board here and it does help.  Bottom line, I am just scared.

Thanks, Mary

Hugs to all, patients and care givers.

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I am stage IV and close to NED on the GSK BRAF/MEK trial for 30 months. Had a spot on my chest and they biopsied it as melanoma, not just an atypical nevus. Now they will get out the ice cream scooper scapel and carve it out to check on its depth etc. I guess this combo doesn't stop a new growth but it sure kicks hell out of the tumors when they can get at them. Do I have this right?

The history of the world is the battle between superstition and intelligence.

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admin's picture
Replies 1
Last reply 6/4/2013 - 2:23pm
Replies by: W.

A number of important melanoma research updates have emerged from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, including a report on Sunday, June 2 about the combination of ipilimumab and nivolumab. Both drugs are designed to engage the immune system in fighting melanoma. In the study, the combined drugs helped shrink tumors in 38% of patients overall. One arm of the study generated a 52% response rate in patients. The study has been published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Just wanted to let you know I enjoyed meeting you on Sunday at the Atlanta Braves game area! I hope lots of people joined the MRF mailing list. Please let me know if there are any other events in the Atlanta area, and if you need a volunteer or two.


Work hard, but play harder.

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gabsound's picture
Replies 11
Last reply 6/4/2013 - 7:32am

Hi all,

I finished up 4 rounds of Abraxane, Avastin and Carboplatin and had scans last Friday. After my fist tretment I saw a soft tissue tumor on my back disappear. Another lesion on my arm went way down by the third treatment, but after the 4 th started growing again. It Is now quite large and uncomfortable. . The lesion on my back is growing back as well. The lesions in my liver I don't think are growing like the arm, or I would be in some serious pain. My bone mets in the spine are bothering me off and on. I started on a fentanyl patch and that is giving me less problems than the MS Contin. Such a balancing act, managing pain and the side effects from the pain meds ( nausea, constipation, sleepiness and for me anxiety).

Pet scan results show mixed response with liver and lungs looking better, but increase in a lot of the lymph nodes, soft tissue lesion in arm and thigh quite large as well as bones and buttocks region.

Brain MRI shows multiple small lesions in the cerebellar and cerebral hemispheres as well as a 19 mm lesion in the left occipital lobe. Devastating news!!

I had a good cry with my husband. We continued today with another chemo treatment which had the dose increased as it is helping some of the lesions.

Plan will be to meet with the radiation Oncologist and get going on treatment for the brain mets. My oncologist wants to start me on MEK inhibitor, hopefully it will be approved soon. He is checking on a trial, but I think brain mets exclude you from most trials. He will attend ASCO next week and hopefully there may be other options.

I am so thankful for all of you on this board. It really does help to have fellow warriors going through this together.

Praying for all of us, and let's keep moving forward .


I was diagnosed Jan 2011 stage 3. I hoped not to keep progressing like I am, but am so glad for the time I have had with my family and friends. I pray the quality of my life will remain good. Brain wise I think I am asymptotic I feel for my husband who gets all this news and has to support me. He does such a great job. I love him, and am so happy to have him in my life. My daughter will graduate from high school this June. I'm happy to be here for that as well.

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Tim--MRF's picture
Replies 4
Last reply 6/4/2013 - 1:19am

This was a great day for melanoma at ASCO.  The highlight was a session, with several presentations, on PD1 drugs.  The Merck PD1 drug, labrolizumab, had an overall response rate of 38%.  In the best dosage of the trial, half of patients saw tumors shrink on this drug.  Compare this to ipi, in which the response rate is less than 20%.  Another researcher reported on combining the BMS PD1 drug, nivolumab, with ipilimumab.  Response rates in the best arm were, again, over 50%.  More than 40% of patients saw their tumors shrink by 80% or more.  

One of the challenges of using ipi has been that responses can take a long time to develop.  This means that ipi is too slow for patients with aggressive tumors.  In combination, however, the responses were much faster--most within 12 weeks.  I can report that the feeling in the room was nothing short of giddiness.  All the melanoma researchers were grinning ear to ear in hearing this news.

Both the Merck drug and the "novi"+ "ipi" combo will be used in larger trials, with a good number of slots available.  Based on the data, however, a lot of researchers feel that the FDA should approve these drugs with little or no additional research.  

Another session reported on brain metastases.  Perhaps the best information is that BRAF inhibitors have an impact on brain mets for patients wtih BRAF mutation in their tumor.  

A lot of good news for the fight against melanoma, and hopefully more to come in the future.


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Alanamaranto22's picture
Replies 19
Last reply 6/4/2013 - 12:17am

I am very upset that my Oncologist/Surgeon has me waiting so long before starting active treatment of this. I previously posted my pathology report earlier this week. The pathology report revealed a very large Polypoid Ulcerated Nodular Melanoma. Clark Level IV-V (pathologist couldn't accurately label due to the size and depth), Breslow Depth greater than 5mm (again too large to give an accurate number). It has invaded my lymphovascular system, the mitotic rate is highly variable with up to 5 per square mm. So far the pathology staging is T4b. I had the excisional biopsy done on May 13, 2013. Since then this tumor is already growing back on the surface and its only been two weeks. To me this is more severe than I originally thought. I have been in daily contact with my primary who's trying desperately to get me in now. I have Medicare so I'm wondering if it has anything to do with that?

Anyhow, my other concern is the order of treatment he has planned. He first wa in nts to go in and remove the rest (if possible) of the cancerous tissue and at least 2mm of good tissue from the site of origin. This will be very invasive due to the tumor being on my inner ankle where there is very little skin and tissue. I'm wondering why he does not want to do the PET, CT and MRI Scans and blood work first before possibly taking my foot off?

Due to the invasive surgery and his opinion of certainty of at least a few of the nodes being positive for invasion, why not do the testing first, then proceed with the surgery and SNB? It kind of seems backwards if you ask me. They are so concerned because of how rapidly its growing, I don't understand the waiting period?

Also, what can I expect as far as treatment? Do they do chemo first or put me on a drug like all the ones you are discussing? I just want to start preparing myself mentally. He already said they would have me on treatments of some sort after the surgery so I just want to get an idea of what I'm in for. Do the treatments make you sick, cause hair loss, etc.? And I know many probably won't or don't want to answer this but I would greatly appreciate your own knowledge and opinion on this: If this has metastasized to distant organs (worse case scenario) what are the average survival rates? I'll be happy if its at least a year. I'm hopeful and I'm remaining positive but its information I would like to know. I am a Christian and I truly believe if God wants me home then I'm okay with that. I just want to plan for the worst and pray for the best. I have gone through quite a bit in a year and I think someone is trying to tell me something. Two different cancers in a year, fibrocystic disease and tumors on my brain, kidney, cervix and tongue, as well as having my third major back surgery all in a 15 month period is a sign of some sort. I am by no means giving up but I believe its time to get my affairs in order. I have to work on getting a Will and trying to find all my life insurance policies.

Again, I'm not trying to be negative or give up by any means but tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone with or without cancer and I just don't want to have to worry about not having those affairs in order for my kids and grandkids. And I really would like for info on what to expect as far as treatment.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Your input, personal info and knowledge would truly help me to mentally prepare for what I'm getting ready to fight. God Bless you all and I'm so very greatful for this site and having people like myself to talk to and you're all truly an inspiration to me.

With Love,

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flvermonter's picture
Replies 3
Last reply 6/3/2013 - 11:22pm

Hi Again,


Back in April, my husband had a mole removed on his back and one on his abnomen.  We have been on a journey since the results of the mole (melanoma) on his back, and stage i lung cancer.  Today I received a call from his dermatoligist that removed the moles and referred us to Moffitt.  Turns out the other small mole was pre melanoma and has to be removed.  They had sent us to Moffitt for the larger one and didn't know if Moffitt was going to remove the small one.  Called Moffitt and was advised they would not, as it is not Melanoma (yet) and of course my husband has many other things to worry about.  So the Dermatoligist will remove the rest of the mole in a few weeks after my hsubands 2 surgeries.  One for the rest of the lymph nodes, and one for top lobe of his right lung.  Needless to say the call I received was like out of left field for me  Not sure why no one ever mentioned it before.  Have others heard of this?

Hugs to all, patients and care givers.

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POW's picture
Replies 0

Marie just posted a very encouraging update about Dian on the "Off Topic" forum. Check it out!

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Tim--MRF's picture
Replies 4
Last reply 6/3/2013 - 11:25am
Replies by: Tamils, BrianP, POW, out4air

I am at ASCO and have a ton of meetings with various companies today and over the next couple of days.  I thought I would provide a couple of quick updates, but first a heads up.

Tomorrow morning data will be presented on a study combining ipilimumab (Yervoy) with the BMS anti-PD1 drug, nivolimab. I am hearing very positive things about this study, and the data may be the most important information for melanoma to come out of this meeting.  Please pay attention over the next day or two; I think the news on this will be positive.

I met today with a company called Vical that has a drug called Allovectin.  This is a plasmid with an antigen that is injected into a melanoma lesion.  It serves to activate T-cells in the tumor area, which then get "trained" to attack tumor cells. They have a Phase III study compariing Allovectin with traditional chemotherapy.  The trial closed three years ago and the data is not yet mature.  Let me explain what this means.  In this kind of trial, the data is blinded until a certain number of "events" happen.  "Event" is a euphemism, in this case, for a patient who dies.  We know that patients on chemo survive about a year.  The fact that the data in this study has not yet matured means that a lot of patients are still alive after three years.  It is unlikely that many patients on the chemo are survived this long, which suggests that a fairly large number of patients treated with Allovectin are still alive after three years.  The company expects to have the data available by the end of September, so we will watch this closely.

I met also with a small biotech company with a drug that inhibits MET and VEGR.  Studies in melanoma are unclear, but it seems to be very effective in ocular (uveal) melanoma.

In a meeting with Prometheus we discussed current and future use of Interleukin 2.  IL2 curesabout 5% of patients with advanced melanoma, and has an overall response rate of about 15%.  A major challenge has been finding which patients are likely to respond.  They pointed to a small study showing very high response rates in patients whose tumor expresses a compound called PDL1.  Maybe some progress is being made in determining who is likely to respond.

I suppose the biggest news doesn't really relate to data, but more to the field in general.  This morning a poster session for melanoma.  This session has people with large posters (about 3 feet by 5 feet) stuck on bulletin boards and reporting news in different cancer fields.  In the past the melanoma poster session has been small and poorly attended.  Today they had at least five full rows of presentation--literally dozens--and the aisles were packed with doctors looking over the progress.  This, to me, shows how rapidly the field is moving foward.

I will try to report more tomorrow.



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