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    Drug Shows Promise Against Advanced Melanoma

    In preliminary trial, nivolumab shrank tumors in 30 percent of tough-to-treat patients


    Forty-three percent of the patients are estimated to have survived two years after treatment, the researchers said, and average survival for patients across all treatment doses is now projected to be nearly 17 months.

    In an ASCO news release, melanoma expert Dr. Lynn Schuchter called the results "truly remarkable."

    The findings "confirm that 'revving' up the immune system is a powerful approach in shrinking melanoma," said Schuchter, who is also a spokeswoman for ASCO. "Melanoma patients are living longer and better with these new treatments."

    However, although the study participants were described as being "typical" patients with advanced melanoma, the investigation's findings are tempered by the fact that it was not a randomized clinical trial and did not compare the impact of nivolumab directly against the performance of other drugs.

    "[But] while this was not a randomized clinical trial, it had a considerable number of patients and the durability of responses is a sign of very promising clinical activity," Sznol said in the news release.

    A randomized phase III trial has begun, aimed at confirming these initial findings.

    Another expert agreed that the drug shows the promise of immunotherapies in general.

    "The results of this study are truly remarkable and demonstrate that immunotherapy truly can make the difference for many melanoma patients," said Dr. Yvonne Saenger, assistant professor of hematology/oncology and dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City.

    Saenger, who was not connected to the new study, noted that "earlier immunotherapies, such as interleukin 2 and even Yervoy, can only help a small minority of patients," but nivolumab seems to do much better.

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