Clinical trials of a new immunotherapy, pembrolizumab, have shown that it prolongs life significantly for patients with bladder cancer and is active against a rare sub-type of melanoma, called mucosal melanoma. The findings were presented in two presentations at the European Cancer Congress (ECCO) 2017 on January 29, 2017. Until now, mucosal melanoma has often been excluded from immunotherapy treatments for the disease. Melanoma usually occurs in the skin and is caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation (such as sunlight). Mucosal melanoma occurs in the moist surfaces that line the body's cavities, such as the airways, digestive tract, and genitourinary tracts, and is not caused by UV radiation; there is no known cause. It makes up about one per cent of all melanomas and has a poor prognosis, usually because of late diagnosis - the majority of patients with metastatic disease (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body) survive for less than a year if they have received conventional treatments. Reporting the results from three trials of pembrolizumab for patients with advanced melanoma, Dr. Marcus Butler, a medical oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto, Canada, told ECCO2017 that 84 of the 1,567 patients in the KEYNOTE-001, 002 and 006 studies had advanced mucosal melanoma. "Sixteen of these patients (19%) responded to treatment with pembrolizumab, of whom 12 are still alive without their disease progressing and, so far, the longest time some of these patients have continued to be successfully treated is more than 27 months," he said.
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