Friday, December 15, 2017
Health

Moffitt Cancer Center research improves treatment of advanced melanoma

TAMPA — A new cocktail of cancer-fighting drugs can help patients with advanced melanoma, a Moffitt Cancer Center researcher has reported in a study to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The new research builds on recent advances in therapies for advanced melanoma that center on targeting its genetic fingerprint. Until recently, the deadly skin cancer was considered nearly untreatable in its later stages.

Drugs now are available that can block a mutation in a gene called BRAF, which fuels the cancer. The mutation is present in about half of melanoma cases. If caught early, lesions can be removed surgically, but doctors traditionally had few options once melanoma spreads throughout the body.

Dr. Jeffrey Weber, director of Moffitt's Melanoma Research Center of Excellence, was among the leaders of a national team that sought better results by combining drug therapies to inhibit the BRAF mutation and overcome the tumor's ability to grow resistant to the drugs.

The results of their complex study, involving about 250 patients, are now available online and will publish in print in the Nov. 15 edition of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers found they could improve the outcome for patients through a combination of two drugs, dabrafenib and trametinib. Patients receiving the combination therapy saw their cancers go into remission for 9 1/2 months, compared to 5 1/2 months for those on dabrafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, alone.

Patients receiving the combination treatment also saw their tumors shrink at a higher rate than those receiving the single drug.

"This is an evolutionary development which has important implications," Weber said. "What this shows is you can, to some degree, reverse (drug) resistance."

Additionally, researchers saw more patients respond to the combination therapy. And fewer of them experienced common side effects, which can include additional (though less serious) skin cancers.

The research was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the two drugs. The study involved about two dozen researchers at major cancer centers in the United States and Australia.

Moffitt's Weber, one of five lead authors of the study, called it an important step in advancing drug therapies tailored to the unique genetic profile of each cancer patient.

"These are the first few steps in developing truly personalized medicine for melanoma," he said. "It's only going to get better from here."

Letitia Stein can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330.

Comments
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
City Council sinks deal to alter ownership of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg

City Council sinks deal to alter ownership of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — After months of tense negotiations and weeks of political impasse, the City Council on Thursday derailed a proposal that would have changed the ownership structure of the city’s largest hospital, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.The 5-...
Published: 12/14/17
Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

The number of doctors practicing in Florida has not kept up with the state’s surging population growth, and more money is needed to recruit and keep them here, hospital leaders said Wednesday.The shortage is particularly acute in four speciality area...
Published: 12/13/17
An overlooked epidemic: Older Americans taking too many unneeded drugs

An overlooked epidemic: Older Americans taking too many unneeded drugs

Consider it America’s other prescription drug epidemic.For decades, experts have warned that older Americans are taking too many unnecessary drugs, often prescribed by multiple doctors, for dubious or unknown reasons. Researchers estimate that 25 per...
Published: 12/13/17
How is Florida’s health? Not so great, report says

How is Florida’s health? Not so great, report says

Florida slightly improved its national standing this year, rising from 36th to 32nd overall in the annual America’s Health Rankings report. But the takeaway for the nation’s third-largest state is that it has a long way to go in many important health...
Published: 12/12/17
Driven by demand, Planned Parenthood opens second clinic in Tampa

Driven by demand, Planned Parenthood opens second clinic in Tampa

The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are heavily tinted and the inside is hidden behind rows of curtains. Security cameras monitor every corner, and only patients with an appointment and valid identification can pass through the intentionally cramped e...
Published: 12/12/17
Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Jimmy Kimmel was absent from his ABC late-night show last week while his 8-month-old son, Billy, recovered from his second heart surgery. Ever since Billy was born with a heart defect and required immediate surgery, Kimmel has become an outspoken adv...
Published: 12/12/17
Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

With just four days left to enroll for health insurance on the federal exchange, advocates for the Affordable Care Act say Florida is headed for a record-breaking year. In week five of the six-week open enrollment period, about 823,180 people signed ...
Published: 12/12/17
A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

A boy shares the pain of being bullied - inspiring thousands to show him love (w/video)

While fighting back tears, young Keaton Jones couldn’t stop asking one question: Why?"Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it?" he asks his mother while in the passenger seat of a parked car. "Why do you find joy in taking in...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

Legalization of marijuana for adults poses problems for people dealing with teens

WESTMINSTER, Calif. — After Yarly Raygoza attended the drug prevention program at the Boys & Girls Club here last year, she used what she learned to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.The 14-year-old took the class again this year but worries ...
Published: 12/10/17