Combination of Immunotherapy and Synthetic CpG Oligo Shows Promise for Treatment of Advanced Melanoma

A UCLA-led study has found that a treatment that uses a bacteria-like agent in combination with an immunotherapy drug could help some people with advanced melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, live longer. The research showed that using the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab and the experimental agent SD-101, a sequence of nucleic acids that mimics a bacterial infection, altered the microenvironment around the tumor in a way that enabled the immune system to more effectively attack the cancer. The research was an early-stage study, conducted to test the side effects and best dosage of a potential new combined therapy, and the findings were published online on August 28, 2018 in Cancer Discovery. The article Is titled “SD-101 in Combination with Pembrolizumab in Advanced Melanoma: Results of a Phase 1b, Multicenter Study.” Pembrolizumab, which is marketed under the brand name Keytruda, works by blocking a protein called PD-1, which interferes with immune system function. Blocking PD-1 with pembrolizumab enables the immune system cells to better attack the cancer. While pembrolizumab has been a significant advancement for treating people with a variety of advanced or metastatic cancers, a majority of metastatic melanoma tumors are still resistant to the drug. "We have found that the reason patients with metastatic melanoma do not initially respond to immunotherapy with an anti-PD-1 is that their immune system was not ready," said Antoni Ribas (photo), MD, PhD, the study's lead author, a Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Tumor Immunology Program.
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