New trial data indicates that there is an experimental drug that is reducing the chances of death in half for patients who are suffering from uncommon but aggressive eye cancer.
Dr. Antoni Ribas shared in an interview with HealthDay Now that Tebentafusp is the first-ever drug that is showing any improvement in survival for patients who are suffering from uveal melanoma. Dr. Ribas is a past president of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR).
Antoni shared, “Uveal melanoma is a disease that until now has had no medical treatment. Nothing had shown any improvement in the last 50 years of clinical research.” He is the director of the Tumor Immunology Program at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The results were shared in the annual meeting of AACR. The results indicated that patients were chosen randomly and the ones that received tebentafusp had cut their death risk in half as compared to patients who received chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
This research is as of now only considered preliminary research, it will have more weightage once it is published in a journal that is peer-reviewed.
Dr. Jessica Hassel who is a trial researcher shared, “Tebentafusp halved the relative risk to die and, therefore, had a great impact on prolonging survival of patients with metastasized uveal melanoma. It is thereby the first drug with a proven survival benefit for patients with uveal melanoma, and this was true even in patients where the melanoma progressed.” Hassel is a section head in the dermatology department, she is also an associate professor and the head of the National Center for Tumor Diseases at University Hospital Heidelberg, in Germany.
Hassel said that Uveal melanoma which is one of the most common cancer of eyes seen in adults although it is rare. 3 percent to 5 percent of melanomas are Uveal melanoma.
The eyewall has three layers. The white of the eye makes the exterior layer which is called the sclera. The inside layer has a nerve tissue lining known as the retina and then there is uvea between these layers. The diagnosis for this rare eye cancer has not been great up until now. Hassel said people often only live for a year after they are diagnosed with this aggressive cancer. She said, “When the uveal melanoma is diagnosed, it is radiated or operated depending on the size of the tumor. Half of the patients eventually develop metastases, mainly to the liver, and at that time there is no standard of care available.”
Hassel said that various doctors have treated this cancer or at least tried to treat it once it spreads in the liver, various immune-boosting drugs have been used as well but “none of these treatments have shown an overall survival benefit.”
Two receptor targets are recognized by Tebentafusp which is a protein. Hassle said it recognizes melanoma cells and cancer-killing T cells which are made by the immune system. This drug is given to the patients weekly.
She said, “Tebentafusp builds a bridge between the tumor and the immune cells, enabling the immune cells to attack the tumor. It binds T-cells and activates them to fight the ocular melanoma cells.”