In Recent Decades, Immunotherapy Extended Advanced Melanoma Survival from Months to Years

Thanks to the FDA approval of immunotherapy agents, the average survival for patients for stage 4 melanoma has drastically increased over the past 20 years, an expert explained.

Thanks to the advent of immunotherapy, average survival for patients with advanced melanoma is drastically better than it was decades ago, explained Dr. Jedd D. Wolchok, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Wolchok explained that when he first started treating patients with melanoma in the year 2000, the average survival for someone with stage 4 disease was about seven months. Now that there are Food and Drug Administration-approved immune checkpoint inhibitors, average survival has increased to over six years.

However, that does not mean that the work is finished for treating these patients, according to Wolchok.

“We still have many people who need other treatments,” Wolchok said in an interview with CURE® And importantly, we also need to balance better risk with benefit to be able to deliver the same type of anti-tumor activity, but perhaps using different doses and schedules, less toxicity.”

Transcript

When I first started treating melanoma back in the year 2000, the average life expectancy of someone with metastatic melanoma stage 4 disease was about seven months, and it had been stuck at that median number for a really long time, despite a lot of work to try to find better treatments.

Based upon the results of a large study called CheckMate-067, we now know that the median survival for people who were originally treated with a combination of checkpoint blocking antibodies, (Yervoy [ipilimumab]), and (Opdivo [nivolumab]) is now just over six years.

Granted that it took a long time to get there, but the first checkpoint blocking antibody was approved in 2011. So between 2011 and 2021, we've seen the median life expectancy of someone (with) metastatic melanoma go from seven months to just over six years. So I think that's really important context to put this in.

That doesn't mean that our work is over. We still have many people who need other treatments. And importantly, we also need to balance better risk with benefit to be able to deliver the same type of anti-tumor activity, but perhaps using different doses and schedules, less toxicity.

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