Anti–PD-1 Advanced Melanoma Cure: next drug generation after Ipilimumab

August 15th, 2016

Being an aggressive tumor with a very strange behavior, melanoma receives much attention from scientists worldwide. Techniques for early detection, as well as new treatment methods emerge frequently. So far, one of the best drugs for people suffering from melanoma was Ipilimumab, and it was used to stimulate the natural immune response to eliminate cancer cells.

There is some very good news in this field. Scientists from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center are on their way to develop a clever approach to melanoma treatment. Namely, the melanoma cells have diverse mechanisms which they are using to hide from the immune system. This new drug, Anti-PD-1 is designed to disable these mechanisms and make melanoma cells easily discoverable by the immune system. Dr. Suzanne Topalian from Johns Hopkins Center says that once the tumor is uncovered, it can be destructed by person’s natural immune system.

After breaking this new ground, many researchers have focused their work in the same way and realized that this kind of melanoma treatment can be very beneficial, even in persons with advanced disease. In contrast to Ipilimumab and other immunotherapy drugs, Anti-PD-1 does not affect the immune system directly, which is a very valuable feature. Every artificial change in the immune system drags its risks, because of the complexity and multiple functions of this system.

For example, people undergoing treatment with Ipilimumab can experience severe inflammatory reactions due to overly expressed activity of the immune cells and increased antibody production. In contrast, Anti-PD-1 causes far less side effects and has less contraindications, which means that more persons are eligible to receive this treatment.

Anti-PD-1 is still under investigation and is entering more and more clinical studies in order to examine its effectiveness, contraindications, side effects, and other features of a large group of patients. Scientists hope that Anti-PG-1 and its descendants will soon be the main treatment option for melanoma patients, hopefully with much greater results than earlier drugs.

The earlier melanoma is recognized, the better treatment outcomes are. Appearance of any new, growing moles, or changes in color and shape of an existing mole require detailed examination by nearest dermatologist using dermoscopy. People with more than 50 moles on their skin should regularly visit their dermatologist for routine checks on a 6-month or at least 1-year basis.


Sui X, Ma J, Han W, et al. The anticancer immune response of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 and the genetic determinants of response to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 antibodies in cancer patients. Oncotarget. 2015;6(23):19393-19404.

Gangadhar TC, Salama AK. Clinical applications of PD-1-based therapy: a focus on pembrolizumab (MK-3475) in the management of melanoma and other tumor types. OncoTargets and therapy. 2015;8:929-937. doi:10.2147/OTT.S53164.

Improta G, Leone I, Donia M, Gieri S, Pelosi G, Fraggetta F. New developments in the management of advanced melanoma – role of pembrolizumab. OncoTargets and therapy. 2015;8:2535-2543. doi:10.2147/OTT.S72823.

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