Immunotherapy drug combination could help fight melanoma

Using a combination of immunotherapy drugs could have some success fighting melanoma, according to a UK study.1 Immunotherapy uses drugs to encourage the immune system to attack cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone.

The research, which originated across several UK universities, examined nearly 1,000 people with advanced melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Patients were given one of the immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab or nivolumab, or a combination of both.

Those who were given a combination of the drugs lived for longer without the disease progressing, averaging 11.5 months, although the people with the type of tumour that nivolumab targets were also found to live just as long on that drug alone.

These results are interesting, although it should be pointed out that this is unfortunately not a cure for melanoma. The study is currently still ongoing so we also do not have definitive results at this stage.

It is possible though after further research that this combination approach could become an effective option in the future for the treatment of malignant melanoma.


1 Larkin J, Chiarion-Sileni V, Gonzalez R, et al. Combined Nivolumab and Ipilimumab or Monotherapy in Untreated Melanoma. The New England Journal of Medicine. Published online May 31 2015

News sources:

New era in the war on cancer: Revolutionary treatment that will save thousands hailed as 'biggest breakthrough since chemotherapy. Daily Mail, June 1 2015

Cancer drug combination 'shrinks 60% of melanomas'. BBC News, June 1 2015

Doctors hail 'spectacular' cancer treatment breakthrough. ITV News, June 1 2015

Immunotherapy: 'Major milestone' as drugs stimulate body to fight off deadly cancers. The Independent, May 31 2015

Immunotherapy: the big new hope for cancer treatment. The Guardian, June 1 2015

'Cure for terminal cancer' found in game-changing drugs. The Daily Telegraph, June 1 2015

Welcome to the 'new era' of cancer treatment. Metro, June 1 2015


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