What Are Melanoma Clinical Trials?
Irregular and uncontrolled skin cell growth because of the damaged cellular DNA is known as melanoma. Cellular abnormalities may be caused by extensive exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This type of cancer is appropriately named after melanocyte cells, which reside in the upper epidermal layer and produce melanin. Therefore, the clinical manifestation of melanomas includes dark, raised areas of the skin.
Researchers have made significant strides in melanoma treatments through clinical trials investigating how to best target irregular melanocyte turnover. Clinical trials for immunotherapy drugs, such as ipilimumab and nivolumab, have shown significant efficacy in stabilizing tumor growth.
Why Is Melanoma Being Studied Through Clinical Trials?
Though melanoma treatments have advanced dramatically, researchers are yet to find a treatment suitable for all individuals. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly a hundred thousand new melanomas are expected to be diagnosed in 2023. Therefore, the prevalence of this cancer begets the need for melanoma clinical trials.
Melanoma clinical trials create an opportunity for patients to receive treatments that might be more effective than those approved by the FDA. Furthermore, as one of the deadliest skin cancers, melanoma requires a more profound understanding to improve clinical outcomes of treatment.
What Are the Types of Treatments Available for Melanoma?
Melanoma treatment depends on the melanoma’s stage and location, as well as your risk of cancer relapse and overall health. Stage 0 melanomas restricted to the epidermis are frequently treated with surgeries and imiquimod topical creams.
Stage I and II melanomas, are similarly removed with surgery. Doctors also frequently perform sentinel lymph node biopsies in these patients to assess whether the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes. Positive biopsies, indicating that the melanoma is now a stage III, may be followed by surgical removal of affected lymph nodes and adjuvant therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
Stage IV melanomas are widespread cancers wherein multiple organ systems may be affected. Should surgeries not be possible, these melanomas are treated with immunotherapies, targeted therapies, radiation, or chemotherapy. Since this stage of cancer is the most challenging to treat, clinical trials frequently focus on how to combine these therapies to eradicate the melanoma.
What Are Some Recent Breakthrough Clinical Trials for Melanoma?
In recent years, clinical trials have made enormous progress in melanoma treatment, such as the following:
2020: Restricting the fatality of melanomas: Dr. Golan and Prof. Levy at Tel Aviv University discovered the protein emitted by fat cells that allow the cancer cells to spread aggressively. This discovery allowed other researchers to begin investigating how to target this protein.
2023: Neoadjuvant treatment in stage III melanomas: Researchers found that administering immunotherapy before surgery, instead of afterward, showed that only 3% of patients experience cancer recurrence after this treatment strategy. This outcome meant that an overwhelming majority of patients were cured of their cancers using this method.
Who Are Some of The Key Opinion Leaders Conducting Melanoma Clinical Trial Research?
Dr. James P. Allison, Ph.D.
Dr. James Allison is a shared Nobel Prize winner responsible for discovering how inhibition of negative immune regulation effectively treats cancers. This discovery assisted researchers in developing immune checkpoint blockade therapy, which is now a mainstay cancer treatment.
Dr. Boris Bastian, MD
Dr. Boris Bastian is an expert dermatologist who has performed groundbreaking research about algorithms that predict tumor growth. This research has allowed melanoma treatment to be individualized for each patient, improving their clinical outcomes.