MIA takes centre stage at leading cancer conference

MIA takes centre stage at leading cancer conference

5 June 2019

Researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) took centre stage at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, attended by over 40,000 professionals. Results presented by MIA’s contingent have the potential to create better patient outcomes and change the way advanced melanoma is treated.

Four independent presentations on melanoma were given by MIA researchers at the world’s leading oncology conference, and a highly prestigious Clinical Sciences Symposium was presented in the Next Generation Therapeutics and Biomarkers session by post-doctoral researcher Dr Inês Da Silva.

“Four presentations from one institution, including a Clinical Science Symposium, is unprecedented. These presentations will change the way we treat melanoma patients, as well as their quality of life,” said MIA’s Co-Medical Director, Professor Georgina Long.

Dr Da Silva’s research is paving the way for personalised therapies, as she unveiled a detailed analysis of melanoma biomarkers to predict treatment response. Currently, biomarkers for response to immunotherapy have been studied in isolation. Dr Da Silva looked at a range of characteristics of patients and their melanoma and how these interact to create a multivariate predictive model. Her research found that high levels of two molecular factors – tumour mutational burden and interferon gamma – are predictive of good response to immunotherapy and longer progression-free survival in patients with metastatic cutaneous melanoma. Importantly, Dr Da Silva focused on patients who are outliers’ – those who do not have these features who responded to therapy, or those who have these features who did not respond. Looking closely at what makes these patients different could prove crucial in our understanding of resistance and help us find treatments that will work for patients who currently don’t respond.

“These outliers are so important to our research. These are the patients who can teach us about resistance or conversion to therapy, which is our next big research focus,” said Professor Richard Scolyer, Co-Medical Director of MIA.

Another MIA presentation outlined what researchers hope will be the new benchmark for drug testing and regulatory approval. MIA’s Associate Professor Alex Menzies presented analyses of data from six neoadjuvant clinical trials on behalf of the International Neoadjuvant Melanoma Consortium (INMC). Neoadjuvant immunotherapy, where a drug is given prior to surgery then continued afterwards, shows early promise as the new standard of treatment with evidence suggesting it may be more effective in melanoma patients. The data suggests it could act as a possible early marker of long-term survival. This is determined by the patient’s pathological response rate, which is identified through a biopsy. To date, no patient in any of the trials with a complete pathological response has shown disease progression at all throughout two years of follow-up. Due to this success, the INMC is developing a ‘Master Protocol’ for neoadjuvant clinical trials to standardise trial design, pathological assessment, and translational research. This will allow new drugs to be compared with current standard-of-care in a quick and efficient way, leading to the possibility of quicker approvals for drugs that show therapeutic benefit.

MIA medical oncology fellow Dr Carina Owen presented the analysis from her study looking at international data of patients who recur on adjuvant immunotherapy (immunotherapy given after surgical intervention). Her analysis reveals that patients who recur after stopping treatment early or completing their therapy may respond to further immunotherapy. This is termed salvage therapy and has the potential to open further lines of treatment and longer survival for these patients. Most patients who recur, however, will recur early while on treatment. These patients are resistant to therapy, and none of the patients analysed in this study responded to subsequent therapy. This underscores the need for more research and further clinical trials to cater to these resistant patients – the next phase of MIA’s research focus.

Professor Angela Hong also presented the results from MIA’s whole-brain radiotherapy (WBRT) trial. The international phase III trial found that WBRT does not prolong overall survival compared to observation. As WBRT can be morbid, using this information as the foundation for treatment changes will improve the quality of life for patients whose melanoma has spread to the brain.

In the melanoma and skin cancer poster session, MIA was again well-represented with six posters on display. Professor Long presented two posters summarising new and further results from clinical trials. The newest cohort of patients on the Keynote-029 study have been analysed, and it was found that the combination of pembrolizumab and ipilimumab given in a new dosing schedule is effective and safe, with more follow-up to come. The continuing Combi-I trial has been analysed for updated safety and efficacy, showing promising durability of response with manageable toxicities.

A poster by Dr Inês Da Silva described a model to predict response to immunotherapy. Importantly, the best predictors of response are routinely collected clinical factors, easily accessible through a blood test, making this a practical and inexpensive tool to help guide clinicians in making treatment choices for their patients. PhD student Dr Jenny Lee presented a poster on the use of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) as a biomarker for the presence and monitoring of melanoma brain metastases. While she found that ctDNA was not a useful biomarker for the status of brain metastases, it is till a useful tool for determining extracranial response.

Associate Professor Matt Carlino presented the outline of a new clinical trial, where giving patients with resected Stage II melanoma adjuvant pembrolizumab will be compared with the current standard of care, observation. Finally, clinical trials manager Maria Gonzalez presented a poster summarising MIA’s new ABC-X clinical trial, aided by funding from Jay’s Longest Melanoma March. This trial will combine radiotherapy with immunotherapy in patients with brain metastases to determine if this will increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

“We’re exceptionally proud of our ASCO presenters. Each one is pushing forward the treatment landscape for our patients and edging closer to our goal of zero deaths from melanoma,” said Professor Long.

 

MIA takes centre stage at leading cancer conference
05 Jun 2019

MIA takes centre stage at leading cancer conference

Researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia took centre stage at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago. Results presented by MIA’s contingent have the potential to create better patient outcomes and change the way advanced melanoma is treated .

International Clinical Trials Day 2019
20 May 2019

International Clinical Trials Day 2019

Today is International Clinical Trials Day – a day to recognise and thank the amazing people who conduct, organise, and coordinate clinical trials.

Emma Betts' legacy will live on
17 May 2019

Emma Betts' legacy will live on

“I’m the age Emma was when she passed away. It almost feels unfair, that she has to not be here for me to be able to do this. But I will use this opportunity to push as hard as I can to reach our collective goal of zero deaths from melanoma.”

Support PBS listing for three adjuvant treatments of resected Stage III melanoma
13 May 2019

Support PBS listing for three adjuvant treatments of resected Stage III melanoma

As always, part of the PBAC process invites clinicians, patients and other stakeholders in the cancer community to make submissions in support of the PBS listing.

Support PBS listing for pembrolizumab
06 May 2019

Support PBS listing for pembrolizumab

As always, part of the PBAC process invites clinicians, patients and other stakeholders in the cancer community to make submissions in support of the PBS listing.

How are the Premier's Awards helping cancer researchers?
02 May 2019

How are the Premier's Awards helping cancer researchers?

MIA had four winners in the 2017 Premiers Awards. Find out how winning has influenced their work over the past year.

Cancer Council awards Melanoma Institute Australia researchers funding for ground-breaking cancer research projects
19 Mar 2019

Cancer Council awards Melanoma Institute Australia researchers funding for ground-breaking cancer research projects

Almost $9 million of new funding was awarded to 13 ground-breaking cancer research projects at the 2019 Cancer Council NSW Research Awards.

Making a difference to many
15 Mar 2019

Making a difference to many

Georgina V. Long is co-medical director of Melanoma Institute Australia and Chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research. She is the first woman president of the Society for Melanoma Research.

Aussie icon Sophie Monk calls on Australians to get behind Melanoma March
26 Feb 2019

Aussie icon Sophie Monk calls on Australians to get behind Melanoma March

Quintessential Aussie girl and media personality Sophie Monk has been announced as a National Ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and its national awareness and fundraising campaign, Melanoma March.

Melanoma breakthrough paves way for personalised treatment for all cancer patients
14 Feb 2019

Melanoma breakthrough paves way for personalised treatment for all cancer patients

Australian researchers have for the first time identified specific cells and receptors in the immune system which predict how a patient will respond to treatment with immunotherapies, potentially paving the way for the development of personalised therapy for all cancer patients.

Melanoma March announces 2019 Principal Partner
07 Feb 2019

Melanoma March announces 2019 Principal Partner

Melanoma March is thrilled to introduce Ricky as our official Principal Partner for 2019!

Swimming champion Cate Campbell spearheads national campaign to save lives from melanoma
05 Feb 2019

Swimming champion Cate Campbell spearheads national campaign to save lives from melanoma

World record holder, Olympian and Australian swimming champion Cate Campbell has been announced as National Ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and its national awareness and fundraising campaign, Melanoma March.

MIA experts collaborate on groundbreaking research
16 Jan 2019

MIA experts collaborate on groundbreaking research

MIA's expertise was essential to a recent Nature publication spearheaded by Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Melbourne.

World-leading pathologist Associate Professor Michael Tetzlaff visits MIA
20 Dec 2018

World-leading pathologist Associate Professor Michael Tetzlaff visits MIA

MIA is delighted to be hosting the MD Anderson pathologist on his first ever trip to Australia.

Possible PBS listing for dabrafenib and trametinib
18 Dec 2018

Possible PBS listing for dabrafenib and trametinib

Clinicians, patients and other stakeholders in the cancer community are invited to make submissions in support of the PBS listing for dabrafenib and trametinib.

Arden Anglican School wins SunSafe Ambassador competition
13 Dec 2018

Arden Anglican School wins SunSafe Ambassador competition

Three students from Arden Anglican School in Epping have won Melanoma Institute Australia’s (MIA) inaugural SunSafe Student Ambassador Award.

DON'T CLOUD THE SUN-SAFE MESSAGE
08 Dec 2018

DON'T CLOUD THE SUN-SAFE MESSAGE

Mark Whittaker’s ‘Here comes the sun; Defending our summer rays’ (GW 24 Nov) clouds the sun-safe message – which could have disastrous consequences.

Professor Georgina Long named as one of world's most highly cited researchers
04 Dec 2018

Professor Georgina Long named as one of world's most highly cited researchers

Professor Georgina Long is among only 12 researchers from the University of Sydney to be named in the 2018 Highly Cited Researchers List.

Aussies need to protect themselves from 'everyday' sun damage
01 Dec 2018

Aussies need to protect themselves from 'everyday' sun damage

‘Wearing sunscreen should be as automatic as wearing a seatbelt. Both are potential life savers.

The Poche Centre to host 3D total-body imaging system as part of world-first initiative to save lives from melanoma
29 Nov 2018

The Poche Centre to host 3D total-body imaging system as part of world-first initiative to save lives from melanoma

A prestigious $10 million Australian Cancer Research Foundation grant has been awarded to ACEMID, an initiative that aims to use 3D total-body imaging and a remote medicine network to improve the detection and diagnosis of early-stage melanoma.