Skin Health

New DNA Immunotherapy for Melanoma Cancer: Is it Effective?

For those with advanced melanoma, a new gene therapy treatment option could become available.

Results of a recent study by Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. found that a DNA-based immunotherapy effectively infiltrated melanoma tumor sites in mice, preventing tumors, controlling tumor growth and changing tumors’ micro-environment by “turning off” cells that suppress cancer-killing T-cells.

The therapy also increased survival in melanoma-challenged mice versus the control group.

How the Therapy Works

For the study, Inovio developed a synthetic DNA immunotherapy encoding the tyrosinase gene, which is highly expressed in nearly 80 percent of melanoma tumor cells. Immunotherapy treatments work with the body’s immune system to help fight cancer.

Who Could Benefit?

“Medications like this are reserved for patients who have advanced melanoma, typically meaning metastatic disease or non-surgically resectable disease,” Jennifer Walker MD, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Group Health, explains. “Unfortunately, not everyone responds to treatment and in those that do, the response is often limited to a few months.”

However, Dr. Walker notes there is a subset of patients who will have a durable response and for them, these medications are lifesaving. “Right now, there is a major focus on combining these medications to see if, together, they can improve outcomes over what they can accomplish on their own.”

Study results are published in the online issue of the journal Cancer Gene Therapy.
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