Duke studies new melanoma treatment
Posted May 29, 2008 5:28 p.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2008 11:54 a.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — Researchers at Duke University are testing a new compound that may make melanoma tumors more vulnerable to chemotherapy.
While not the most common skin cancer, melanoma is the most aggressive and the most difficult to treat if it's not caught early. When melanoma has spread beyond the primary site, it is rarely curable. Most people die within six to nine months.
Duke researchers tested the drug ADH-1, which disables a protein often found in melanoma tumors. Patients in the study got the drug before and after an intense dose of chemotherapy given just to the affected extremity – either an arm or leg.
“So it's this combination of treatments, one that sensitizes the tumor and then the second regional chemotherapy that actually kind of give it its knock-out blow,” Duke surgical oncologist Dr. Douglas Tyler said.
Without ADH-1, the same dose of chemotherapy only resulted in complete responses in 25 percent to 35 percent of patients.
With the treatment, 50 percent of those studied had the melanoma completely disappear, Tyler said.
Current findings are based on early results from a small number of patients, but the research team will present their findings on Sunday to a Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.
Owen Montgomery underwent the treatment after doctors discovered he was suffering from melanoma that was spreading up his leg.
For most of his life, Montgomery had a mole on his ankle, but then he noticed some changes.
“The colors changed, the size changed. But, you know, it’s something you had all your life, you don’t think about it,” Montgomery said.
When Montgomery scraped the mole and it didn’t heal, he had it checked out.
“They operated and realized that it was a cluster of melanoma,” he said.
Last June, the melanoma began spreading up his leg.
Now the tumors are gone after Montgomery’s participation in the pilot study.
Though Montgomery needs to be checked every three months to see if the cancer has spread to somewhere else in his body, for now he is relieved.
“It's a blessing. The good Lord gave me a lot of blessings,” he said.
Researchers hope to continue their trial and eventually move on to a third phase in which they will compare this therapy's results to that of the current "gold standard" of melanoma treatment in a large patient group.