Mar 3 A drug that uses the body's own immune
system to kill cancer cells has produced lasting remissions -
some as long as two years - in patients with melanoma that had
spread to other parts of the body, according to data published
Follow-up from an early-stage, 107-patient trial of the
drug, Bristol-Myers Squibb's nivolumab, found that a
year after treatment, 62 percent of patients were alive. After
two years, 43 percent were alive.
Patients with advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin
cancer, have a median life expectancy of around a year, said Dr.
F. Stephen Hodi, director of the Melanoma Treatment Center at
Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and one of the study's
"The durability of clinical benefit, now with long-term
follow-up is fairly remarkable," he said. "As well as the notion
that somebody who stops the drug still gets a benefit."
Patients in the Phase 1 trial, whose cancer had worsened
despite prior treatment with standard drugs, were given
intravenous infusions of nivolumab every other week for up to 96
Side effects of the drug included fatigue, rash, and
The trial results were published in the latest edition of
the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
An editorial accompanying the study noted that the nivolumab
data suggest the drug may be even more effective in patients
with earlier-stage cancer.
Nivolumab is part of a new class of experimental
immunotherapies designed to work by disabling a protein known as
PD-1, or Programmed Death receptor, which acts as a brake on the
immune system's ability to attack cancer cells.
Bristol Myers is conducting several Phase 3 trials of
nivolumab in different types of cancer, including melanoma, lung
and kidney cancer.
Some of the trials involve combination therapy with Yervoy,
also known as ipilimumab, a Bristol immunotherapy cancer drug
designed to disrupt a different cell receptor.
Bristol declined to comment on when it expects to report
data from later-stage, randomized nivolumab trials.