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1.  Small molecules and targeted therapies in distant metastatic disease 
Annals of Oncology  2009;20(Suppl 6):vi35-vi40.
Chemotherapy, biological agents or combinations of both have had little impact on survival of patients with metastatic melanoma. Advances in understanding the genetic changes associated with the development of melanoma resulted in availability of promising new agents that inhibit specific proteins up-regulated in signal cell pathways or inhibit anti-apoptotic proteins. Sorafenib, a multikinase inhibitor of the RAF/RAS/MEK pathway, elesclomol (STA-4783) and oblimersen (G3139), an antisense oligonucleotide targeting anti-apoptotic BCl-2, are in phase III clinical studies in combination with chemotherapy. Agents targeting mutant B-Raf (RAF265 and PLX4032), MEK (PD0325901, AZD6244), heat-shock protein 90 (tanespimycin), mTOR (everolimus, deforolimus, temsirolimus) and VEGFR (axitinib) showed some promise in earlier stages of clinical development. Receptor tyrosine-kinase inhibitors (imatinib, dasatinib, sunitinib) may have a role in treatment of patients with melanoma harbouring c-Kit mutations. Although often studied as single agents with disappointing results, new targeted drugs should be more thoroughly evaluated in combination therapies. The future of rational use of new targeted agents also depends on successful application of analytical techniques enabling molecular profiling of patients and leading to selection of likely therapy responders.
PMCID: PMC2712592  PMID: 19617296
B-Raf; c-Kit; inhibitor; melanoma; mTOR; multikinase
2.  Immunotherapy of distant metastatic disease 
Annals of Oncology  2009;20(Suppl 6):vi41-vi50.
Immunotherapy of metastatic melanoma consists of various approaches leading to specific or non-specific immunomodulation. The use of FDA-approved interleukin (IL)-2 alone, in combination with interferon α, and/or with various chemotherapeutic agents (biochemotherapy) is associated with significant toxicity and poor efficacy that does not improve overall survival of 96% of patients. Many studies with allogeneic and autologous vaccines have demonstrated no clinical benefit, and some randomised trials even showed a detrimental effect in the vaccine arm. The ongoing effort to develop melanoma vaccines based on dendritic cells and peptides is driven by advances in understanding antigen presentation and processing, and by new techniques of vaccine preparation, stabilisation and delivery. Several agents that have shown promising activity in metastatic melanoma including IL-21 and monoclonal antibodies targeting cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (anti-CTLA-4) or CD137 are discussed. Recent advances of intratumour gene transfer technologies and adoptive immunotherapy, which represents a promising although technically challenging direction, are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC2712591  PMID: 19617297
adoptive immunotherapy; anti-CTLA-4; interferon; interleukin; metastatic melanoma; vaccine
3.  Biomarkers in melanoma 
Annals of Oncology  2009;20(Suppl 6):vi8-vi13.
Biomarkers are tumour- or host-related factors that correlate with tumour biological behaviour and patient prognosis. High-throughput analytical techniques—DNA and RNA microarrays—have identified numerous possible biomarkers, but their relevance to melanoma progression, clinical outcome and the selection of optimal treatment strategies still needs to be established. The review discusses a possible molecular basis for predictive tissue biomarkers such as melanoma thickness, ulceration and mitotic activity, and provides a list of promising new biomarkers identified from tissue microarrays that needs confirmation by independent, prospectively collected clinical data sets. In addition, common predictive serum biomarkers—lactate dehydrogenase, S100B and melanoma-inhibiting activity—as well as selected investigational serum biomarkers such as TA90IC and YKL-40 are also reviewed. A more accurate, therapeutically predictive classification of human melanomas and selection of patient populations that would profit from therapeutic interventions are among the major challenges expected to be addressed in the future.
PMCID: PMC2712589  PMID: 19617299
biomarkers; melanoma; LDH; MIA; S100
4.  Utility of adjuvant systemic therapy in melanoma 
Annals of Oncology  2009;20(Suppl 6):vi30-vi34.
The lack of effective drugs in stage IV melanoma has impacted the effectiveness of adjuvant therapies in stage II/III disease. To date, chemotherapy, immunostimulants and vaccines have been used with minimal success. Interferon (IFN) has shown an effect on relapse-free survival (RFS) in several clinical trials; however, without a clinically significant effect on overall survival (OS). A recently conducted meta-analysis demonstrated prolongation of disease-free survival (DFS) in 7% and OS benefit in 3% of IFN-treated patients when compared with observation-only patients. There were no clear differences for the dose and duration of treatment observed. Observation is still an appropriate control arm in adjuvant clinical trials. Regional differences exist in Europe in the adjuvant use of IFN. In Northwest Europe, IFN is infrequently prescribed. In Central and Mediterranean Europe, dermatologists commonly prescribe low-dose IFN therapy for AJCC stage II and III disease. High-dose IFN regimens are not commonly used. The population of patients that may benefit from IFN needs to be further characterised, potentially by finding biomarkers that can predict response. Such studies are ongoing.
PMCID: PMC2712588  PMID: 19617295
adjuvant therapy; interferon; melanoma; metastasis; randomised trials

Results 1-4 (4)