Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Amgen has been working on an experimental vaccine used for treating melanoma. This vaccine from Amgen proved effective, and gave hope, in a late-stage study for melanoma cancer.
When someone who has not been impacted by melanoma before hears of melanoma, he or she might think it is a simple skin cancer. It is not. One person will die from melanoma every hour of every day. Once melanoma has metastasized, meaning once it has spread to other areas of the body, it becomes extremely difficult to treat. In later stages of metastatic melanoma, cancer typically spreads to the liver, bones, lungs, and brain. The five-year survival rate for stage IV melanoma is roughly 15 to 20 percent, with the 10-year survival rate dropping to 10 to 15 percent.
The most common form of cancer for young adults who are ages 25 to 29 is melanoma. Someone in the U.S. receives a diagnosis of melanoma every eight minutes. Roughly 63,000 people in America were diagnosed with melanoma in 2009. 8,650 people in the U.S. lost their battle with melanoma cancer in 2009.
This vaccine from Amgen may give hope for new treatment to fight melanoma cancer. The latest news from Amgen is that in late-stage study trials they found that the vaccine shrank tumors not only at the injection site, but also those in other areas of the body.
The vaccine, T-vec, is an engineered virus which is injected directly into the tumor. After being injected, it replicates until the cancer cell membranes rupture and are thereby destroyed. Because this trial that showed that T-vec can shrink tumors at the injection site and at other places, it means that the vaccine may have an ability to stimulate an immune response, Amgen R&D Chief, Sean Harper, explained.
During this late-stage study, 64 percent of injected tumors reduced in size by at least 50 percent. One-third of non-visceral tumors that were not injected also had a reduction by at least one half. In addition, 15 percent of visceral tumors, or tumors that are on the soft internal organs of the body, experienced a reduction of size by at least 50 percent. Of the 35 surgeries related to melanoma that were done during this trial, 30 percent experienced success in removing all traces residual disease. This study analyzed 4,000 tumors.
It is expected that the T-vec vaccine will be used with other medications for melanoma. Amgen is testing T-vec with a melanoma drug called Yervoy, which is from Bristol-Meyers Squibb. Amgen will also test T-vec with PD-1 inhibitors, an experimental immunotherapy class that is notably promising, which is used for mid to late-stage melanoma.
Last year Amgen released information regarding an earlier phase of the study on T-vec. The vaccine was successful in showing that significant tumor reduction lasted for at least six months. Amgen expects to be able to show data in the next few months proving that T-vec helped study patients to live longer.
Amgen has not released any information yet regarding when it will apply for approval. Harper said that melanoma is a destructive disease that is challenging to treat. He added that T-vec continued to show “encouraging results.” These encouraging results may give hope for a new melanoma treatment in the form of a cancer vaccine from Amgen.
By Ashley Campbell
American Cancer Society