By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) – Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS estimates that about 87,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017 and 9,730 people expected to die as a result. Anybody concerned about the risk of melanoma needs to begin educating themselves on some of the basic facts. Here are three important things to know:
- Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body: According to the Mayo Clinic, melanoma most often develops in areas that have had exposure to the sun—such as the back, legs, arms and face—but they can also occur in less exposed areas such as the soles of the feet; palms of the hands; fingernail beds; in the mouth; in the digestive tract; and in the urinary tract.
- Several factors may increase melanoma risk: Factors that may increase the chances of melanoma include having fair skin, having a history of sunburn and excessive ultraviolet light exposure, reports the Mayo Clinic. Other factors can include having many moles or unusual moles, a family history of melanoma and having a weakened immune system.
- New treatments are being developed to address melanoma: In addition to existing types of treatments—such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation—researchers are investigating a slew of cutting-edge approaches that harness the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cells, the Mayo Clinic says.
“One of the most compelling approaches to melanoma treatment today is called intratumoral immunotherapy,” says Punit Dhillon, CEO of OncoSec Medical Incorporated. “Studies performed to date suggest this could open the door to a new standard of care.”
Researchers have long sought to override the “off switches” that stop the immune system from attacking cancer cells. Antibodies that block a specific “off switch” exploited by cancer, known as checkpoint inhibitors, have shown to be the new backbone of cancer therapy. Unfortunately, however, the majority of patients (60-80 percent) with solid tumors—including melanoma—do not respond to a checkpoint inhibitor therapy, called anti-PD-1. Is there a way to transform these non-responder patients into responders?
OncoSec is addressing this unmet need in oncology by evaluating its proprietary core technology, known as ImmunoPulse® IL-12, in several clinical studies. With this therapy, a DNA plasmid encoding an immune stimulator, known as interleukin-12 (IL-12), is delivered directly into a tumor. This is followed by electroporation, which allows the plasmid to enter cells and express the IL-12 protein in the tumor environment. As a result, an anti-tumor T-cell response is generated. The body’s immune system is better equipped to target and attack cancer cells; in fact, an immune response throughout the body is shown despite limited systemic exposure to the drug. These characteristics suggest that ImmunoPulse® IL-12 is worth exploring as a combination therapy in tandem with standard anti-PD-1 treatment.
OncoSec has obtained positive clinical results from Phase 1 and 2 studies in advanced melanoma. An ongoing Phase 2 study is the first clinical trial that demonstrated a response in a population of patients who were predicted to not respond to ant-PD-1 therapy. The combination of ImmunoPulse® IL-12 with the anti-PD-1 drug, pembrolizumab, yielded a 48 percent clinical response in anti-PD-1 “non-responder” patients and a favorable safety profile.
“Additional studies will tell us more about the role that ImmunoPulse® IL-12 could play as part of a combination approach that can help patients who don’t respond to anti-PD-1 treatment alone,” adds Dhillon.