* 81 percent of patients responded to treatment
* Fewer toxicities seen with combination therapy
By Deena Beasley
CHICAGO, June 4 The combination of two
experimental pills developed by GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L) has
shown promise as a treatment for melanoma, the most deadly type
of skin cancer, according to new research.
The early stage trial involved patients with advanced
melanoma with a specific genetic mutation who were treated with
drugs designed to block MEK (GSK212) and BRAF (GSK436), two
components of the same pathway used by the cancer to drive
Out of the 16 patients so far evaluated in the study, 13
percent had tumor shrinkage, and three had stable disease, for
an overall response rate of 81 percent.
The researchers said combining the drugs resulted in fewer
skin reactions such as cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma,
another type of skin cancer, and rashes, compared with use of
each drug on its own.
"The take-home message is we were able to give both drugs
together and the combination improved some of the troublesome
toxicities," Dr. Jeffrey Infante, director of drug development
at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee,
told reporters at the American Society of Clinical Oncology
meeting in Chicago.
"The majority of patients have a clinical benefit from the
regimen quickly," Infante said at a press briefing.
So far, five patients have had their tumors disappear, he
said, adding, "You don't have to be an oncologist to know you
are helping people."
A midstage trial of the Glaxo drugs is currently underway.
Unlike traditional chemotherapy drugs, which work by
interfering with the entire body's system of cell replication,
newer targeted drugs aim to block specific pathways that cancer
cells use to grow and reproduce.
"This is one of the first studies where two of these new
targeted therapies are combined," ASCO Chief Executive Dr.
Allen Lichter said in a telephone briefing.
Since most tumors eventually find a way to get around
blocked pathways, "there is widespread understanding that we
are going to need to learn how to combine two or more targeted
therapies to block the main road and the side road and the dirt
road," he said.
(Reporting by Deena Beasley; additional reporting by Julie
Steenhuysen; Editing by Eric Walsh)