Latest updates in melanoma research

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Published: 21 Mar 2019
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Dr Alexander van Akkooi - The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Dr Alexander van Akkooi speaks to ecancer at the 2019 EORTC Groups Annual Meeting (EGAM) about the latest research updates from the EORTC melanoma group.

Dr van Akkooi mentions a novel study that will examine the effects of BRAF- and MEK-directed therapy in combination with immunotherapy compared to immunotherapy alone. Additionally, this developing study will be aimed at BRAF-mutated, stage III, high-risk patients, or stage IV resected patients.

He also states a decline in the approval of melanoma drugs, along with inconsistencies with drug duration and therapy sequencing.

For the future, Dr van Akkooi and his group aim to initiate active trials for a range of melanoma patients, including those with advanced metastatic disease, brain metastases, ocular and UV melanoma.

The melanoma group meeting today, we had a few presentations on ongoing research in our institutes looking at potential biomarkers to identify high risk patients or patients that are the most appropriate ones to give adjuvant therapy to for the future trials. That was one part of our meeting, the second part is the clinical trials that we have in development or that we have active and ongoing, to update the membership on the status of those projects.

Has anything from the meeting stood out to you so far?

One of the most interesting things is that we are working on a new adjuvant study which is for the BRAF mutated stage 3 high risk patients or stage 4 resected patients where we have sequential BRAF directed and BRAF and MEK directed therapy followed by immunotherapy versus immunotherapy alone. We’re not there yet in getting everything right with the science but we are very hopeful that we’ll be able to do this hopefully future practice changing study within our network.

What are the main challenges in this area?

The challenges are that there has changed so much in melanoma care in the past ten years, in a very short period of time a lot of drugs have been approved and that is quietening down a bit but we have still a lot of important questions to ask in how we most effectively, most appropriately, use these drugs. So, for instance, in some indications there is a duration of drug prescribed and we don’t necessarily know if that is the correct duration, it might be shorter, it might be longer. Also on what is the most optimal sequencing of therapy is also an important question. So there are now a lot of challenges facing us and it is now the time for an independent academic group like the EORTC to deal with these challenges.

What are the main goals for the group over the next few years?

We would like to achieve that we have trials up and running, active trials, for different areas of melanoma patients. So for patients who have advanced metastatic disease we would like to have a trial; we would like to have a trial for patients with brain metastases; we would like to have a trial for patients with ocular melanomas, uveal melanomas, for early stage patients. So ideally we would go into all the different areas where we, as a group, have representatives and have active trials in all of those areas.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

It’s a very interesting upcoming meeting we’ll have in the fall because it’s the celebration of fifty years anniversary of the EORTC melanoma group. So we invite everybody to submit abstracts and to come and attend this special occasion. It will be in Florence, in Italy, and we also have a very nice celebratory group dinner attendant to it.