University Of PittsburghMelanoma is known to be one of the less common types of skin cancer and yet it appears to cause majority of deaths related to skin cancer. Melanocytes are normally present in skin, being responsible for the production of the dark pigment melanin. It was identified by a University of Pittsburgh analysis that a combination of two different chemotherapies would not help fight advanced melanoma and that the treatment for liver and kidney cancers would not be effective against melanoma.

The phase III trial involved 823 patients from over seven different sites across the country for over 34 months. The main aim of the study was to identify if adding sorafenib which is a molecular targeting agent to chemotherapy combination of carboplatin and paclitaxel would improve survival rates of patients with metastatic melanoma. The patients would undergo chemotherapy combination alone or with sorafenib.

“With each new study, we learn something important about the treatment of melanoma,” commented John M. Kirkwood, M.D., professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and leader of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s (UPCI) melanoma and skin cancer program. “With this study, we learned that the addition of sorafenib, a molecular inhibitor, to a traditional chemotherapy regimen does not improve patient survival.”

“While this study didn’t confirm the very promising results of phase II studies with sorafenib, it is important to share its findings since the double chemotherapy combination of carboplatin and paclitaxel has achieved results that eclipse previous chemotherapy results in large phase III trials. These results take us one step closer to understanding how to most effectively treat metastatic melanoma,” added Dr. Kirkwood.

Every year approximately 160,000 new cases of melanoma are identified worldwide. Surgery seems to cure melanoma only if detected early though if it spreads to the regional lymph nodes or distant sites, a cure may not be assured. The U.S Food and Drug Administration have approved two therapies for treatment of melanoma. These therapies are currently being used, but neither of them have extended the survival period.

This study was published as oral Abstract Number 8511 in the 2010 ASCO Annual Meeting Proceedings. These findings were revealed in an oral presentation at the 46th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.