Advanced malignant melanoma has been an elusive disease with very few treatment options. There has been no treatment available to improve survival. That changed in June 2010 following the presentation of results from a landmark study.
Ipilimumab is an antibody that targets an antigen called CTLA-4 (Cytotoxic T- Lymphocyte-associated Antigen 4) present on the surface of T cells. T cells or T lymphocytes play a key role in cell mediated immunity. CTLA-4 which is present on the surface of T cells has a negative effect on T cell activation. By blocking CTLA-4, T cells are activated to attack and kill melanoma cells.
Ipilimumab in a randomized phase III trial doubled the survival rates compared to the control group. Studies are underway combining this agent with BRAF inhibitors. Stay tuned.