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New Treatment Option Gives Hope for Adults with Advanced Melanoma

  • Category: Cancer, Dermatology
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
New Treatment Option Gives Hope for Adults with Advanced Melanoma

The FDA has granted accelerated approval for a first-of-its-kind, cell-based immunotherapy being touted as a breakthrough treatment option for melanoma patients. Lifileucel, or brand name Amtagvi, is a tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy for adult patients with melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body and who can’t be treated with surgery and have been unsuccessful with chemotherapy and other therapies.

Melanoma is less common than other forms of skin cancer, but causes the most skin cancer deaths. It’s most often diagnosed in those 65 years old and older. Metastatic melanoma occurs when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, typically occurring in stage 3 or stage 4 of the disease.

This one-time cell therapy extracts T cells directly from the patient’s tumor, which is then sent to a lab to grow billions of immune cells from the diseased tissue. The body must have room to accept these billions of new cells, so the patient receives chemotherapy to temporarily deplete the immune system first. Once chemotherapy is complete, the new cells are infused back into the patient to attack and kill the cancer. This novel process typically takes 2 months from surgery to infusion.

TIL therapy is highly personalized as it uses the patient’s specific cancer cells. This makes the risk minimal for graft-versus-host-disease, a serious condition common in stem cell transplantation where the body attacks its own healthy cells. Results have been good so far, with 30% of the patients who participated in the clinical trials reporting significant tumor shrinkage or no new growth. And about half of the patients whose tumor responded to the therapy reported a remission of at least 12 months following the single TIL treatment.

Side effects, as with any treatment involving chemotherapy, can range from minimal to life-threatening. Increased risk of infection, allergic reaction, kidney and respiratory failure and internal bleeding have been reported but most are easily managed.

TIL therapy shows promise for those suffering from melanoma and who haven’t responded to other treatments. Long-term studies and more research is needed to better understand how cellular therapies affect tumors and how long this type of treatment will last.

It’s important to remember that melanoma is preventable! Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily and don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your neck and your ears. When outside, wear a wide brim hat and sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Try to limit outside activities between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest and wear clothing that covers your arms and legs for the best protection. And never use indoor tanning beds as they emit some of the highest levels of UV rays and increase your chance of developing melanoma by 47 percent!