Advanced Melanoma

A special issue of Cancers (ISSN 2072-6694). This special issue belongs to the section "Cancer Therapy".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2020) | Viewed by 52068

Special Issue Editor

Department of Medical Oncology, Leiden University Medical Center, 2333 ZA Leiden, The Netherlands
Interests: (uveal) melanoma; thyroid and other endocrine cancers; colorectal cancer
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, many new systemic treatment options have become available for patients with advanced melanoma.

BRAF/MEK inhibitors, which act through strong inhibition of the mutated BRAF protein, have been used in targeted therapy as about half of the patients with metastatic melanoma have this mutation. This therapy is initially very effective, but the tumor usually acquires resistance to these drugs within a year after the start of treatment.

Patients can also be treated with immunotherapy using checkpoint inhibitors, regardless of their mutation status. The systemic treatment with checkpoint inhibitors consists of antibodies that stimulate T lymphocyte activation by blocking co-inhibitory signals. Treatment with these therapies can lead to long-term responses lasting several years. However, disease remains progressive in approximately half of the patients under treatment using these forms of therapy. Hence, new therapies and clinical trials are still needed.

Most efficacy data, however, have been collected from randomized phase III trials with strict inclusion and exclusion criteria. There is a need for real-life data from registries in which, e.g., older patients and patients with comorbidities are also included. In addition, there remain questions on how to evaluate and follow up patients while on treatment and also thereafter.

This Special Issue of Cancers will present the latest research on the abovementioned topics in advanced melanoma.

Dr. Ellen Kapiteijn
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • melanoma
  • metastasis
  • prognostic factors
  • clinical trials
  • real-life data
  • radiological evaluation and follow-up
  • targeted therapy
  • immunotherapy
  • new developments

Published Papers (19 papers)

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Research

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23 pages, 2481 KiB  
Article
Genetic Variants in Immune Related Genes as Predictors of Responsiveness to BCG Immunotherapy in Metastatic Melanoma Patients
Cancers 2021, 13(1), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13010091 - 30 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2263
Abstract
Adjuvant immunotherapy in melanoma patients improves clinical outcomes. However, success is unpredictable due to inherited heterogeneity of immune responses. Inherent immune genes associated with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may influence anti-tumor immune responses. We assessed the predictive ability of 26 immune-gene SNPs genomic [...] Read more.
Adjuvant immunotherapy in melanoma patients improves clinical outcomes. However, success is unpredictable due to inherited heterogeneity of immune responses. Inherent immune genes associated with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may influence anti-tumor immune responses. We assessed the predictive ability of 26 immune-gene SNPs genomic panels for a clinical response to adjuvant BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) immunotherapy, using melanoma patient cohorts derived from three phase III multicenter clinical trials: AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer) stage IV patients given adjuvant BCG (pilot cohort; n = 92), AJCC stage III patients given adjuvant BCG (verification cohort; n = 269), and AJCC stage III patients that are sentinel lymph node (SLN) positive receiving no immunotherapy (control cohort; n = 80). The SNP panel analysis demonstrated that the responder patient group had an improved disease-free survival (DFS) (hazard ratio [HR] 1.84, 95% CI 1.09–3.13, p = 0.021) in the pilot cohort. In the verification cohort, an improved overall survival (OS) (HR 1.67, 95% CI 1.07–2.67, p = 0.025) was observed. No significant differences of SNPs were observed in DFS or OS in the control patient cohort. This study demonstrates that SNP immune genes can be utilized as a predictive tool for identifying melanoma patients that are inherently responsive to BCG and potentially other immunotherapies in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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10 pages, 228 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Beta-Adrenergic Blocking Agents in Cutaneous Melanoma—A Nation-Wide Swedish Population-Based Retrospective Register Study
Cancers 2020, 12(11), 3228; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12113228 - 02 Nov 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1683
Abstract
Previous studies have demonstrated an anti-tumoral effect of beta-adrenergic blocking agents on cutaneous melanoma (CM). The aim of this study was to investigate if beta-adrenergic blocking agents have an impact on survival in Swedish patients with melanoma. A population-based retrospective registry study including [...] Read more.
Previous studies have demonstrated an anti-tumoral effect of beta-adrenergic blocking agents on cutaneous melanoma (CM). The aim of this study was to investigate if beta-adrenergic blocking agents have an impact on survival in Swedish patients with melanoma. A population-based retrospective registry study including all patients diagnosed with a primary invasive melanoma between 2009 and 2013 was performed. Data from the Swedish Melanoma Register were linked to the Swedish Prescribed Drug Registry and the Swedish Cause of Death Register. Cox regression analyses including competing risk assessments were performed. There were 12,738 patients included, out of which 3702 were exposed to beta-blockers vs. 9036 non-exposed patients. Age, male sex, Breslow thickness, ulceration, and nodal status were independent negative prognostic factors for melanoma-specific survival (MSS). Adding beta-blockers to the analysis did not add any prognostic value to the model (HR 1.00, p = 0.98), neither when adjusting for competing risks (HR 0.97, p = 0.61). When specifically analyzing the use of non-selective beta-blockers, the results were still without statistical significance (HR 0.76, p = 0.21). In conclusion, this population-based registry study could not verify that the use of beta-adrenergic blocking agents improve survival in patients with melanoma. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
20 pages, 1068 KiB  
Article
Addition of Radiotherapy to Immunotherapy: Effects on Outcome of Different Subgroups Using a Propensity Score Matching
Cancers 2020, 12(9), 2429; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12092429 - 27 Aug 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2130
Abstract
Immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) has been established as successful modality in cancer treatment. Combination concepts are used to optimize treatment outcome, but may also induce higher toxicity rates than monotherapy. Several rationales support the combination of radiotherapy (RT) with ICI as radioimmunotherapy (RIT), [...] Read more.
Immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) has been established as successful modality in cancer treatment. Combination concepts are used to optimize treatment outcome, but may also induce higher toxicity rates than monotherapy. Several rationales support the combination of radiotherapy (RT) with ICI as radioimmunotherapy (RIT), but it is still unknown in which clinical situation RIT would be most beneficial. Therefore, we have conducted a retrospective matched-pair analysis of 201 patients with advanced-stage cancers and formed two groups treated with programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitors only (PD1i) or in combination with local RT (RIT) at our center between 2013 and 2017. We collected baseline characteristics, programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) status, mutational status, PD-1 inhibitor and RT treatment details, and side effects according to the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) v.5.0. Patients received pembrolizumab (n = 93) or nivolumab (n = 108), 153 with additional RT. For overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), there was no significant difference between both groups. After propensity score matching (PSM), we analyzed 96 patients, 67 with additional and 29 without RT. We matched for different covariates that could have a possible influence on the treatment outcome. The RIT group displayed a trend towards a longer OS until the PD1i group reached a survival plateau. PD-L1-positive patients, smokers, patients with a BMI ≤ 25, and patients without malignant melanoma showed a longer OS when treated with RIT. Our data show that some subgroups may benefit more from RIT than others. Suitable biomarkers as well as the optimal timing and dosage must be established in order to achieve the best effect on cancer treatment outcome. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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16 pages, 1505 KiB  
Article
Design and Testing of a Custom Melanoma Next Generation Sequencing Panel for Analysis of Circulating Tumor DNA
Cancers 2020, 12(8), 2228; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12082228 - 10 Aug 2020
Cited by 21 | Viewed by 3183
Abstract
Detection of melanoma-associated mutations using circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from plasma is a potential alternative to using genomic DNA from invasive tissue biopsies. In this study, we developed a custom melanoma next-generation sequencing (NGS) panel which includes 123 amplicons in 30 genes covering [...] Read more.
Detection of melanoma-associated mutations using circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from plasma is a potential alternative to using genomic DNA from invasive tissue biopsies. In this study, we developed a custom melanoma next-generation sequencing (NGS) panel which includes 123 amplicons in 30 genes covering driver and targetable mutations and alterations associated with treatment resistance. Analysis of a cohort of 74 stage III and IV treatment-naïve melanoma patients revealed that sensitivity of ctDNA detection was influenced by the amount of circulating-free DNA (cfDNA) input and stage of melanoma. At the recommended cfDNA input quantity of 20 ng (available in 28/74 patients), at least one cancer-associated mutation was detected in the ctDNA of 84% of stage IV patients and 47% of stage III patients with a limit of detection for mutant allele frequency (MAF) of 0.2%. This custom melanoma panel showed significant correlation with droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) and provided a more comprehensive melanoma mutation profile. Our custom panel could be further optimized by replacing amplicons spanning the TERT promoter, which did not perform well due to the high GC content. To increase the detection rate to 90% of stage IV melanoma and decrease the sensitivity to 0.1% MAF, we recommend increasing the volume of plasma to 8 mL to achieve minimal recommended cfDNA input and the refinement of poorly performing amplicons. Our panel can also be expanded to include new targetable and treatment resistance mutations to improve the tracking of treatment response and resistance in melanoma patients treated with systemic drug therapies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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15 pages, 2742 KiB  
Article
TERT Promoter Mutation as an Independent Prognostic Marker for Poor Prognosis MAPK Inhibitors-Treated Melanoma
Cancers 2020, 12(8), 2224; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12082224 - 09 Aug 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2289
Abstract
Although the development of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors has greatly improved the prognosis of BRAFV600 cutaneous melanomas, the identification of molecular indicators for mutated patients at risk of early progression remains a major issue. Using an amplicon-based next-generation-sequencing (NGS) assay that [...] Read more.
Although the development of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors has greatly improved the prognosis of BRAFV600 cutaneous melanomas, the identification of molecular indicators for mutated patients at risk of early progression remains a major issue. Using an amplicon-based next-generation-sequencing (NGS) assay that targets cancer-related genes, we investigated co-occurring alterations in 89 melanoma samples. We analyzed both their association with clinicopathological variables and clinical significance in terms of progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) according to BRAF genotyping. Among co-occurring mutations, TERT promoter was the most frequently mutated gene. Although no significant difference in PFS was observed in the presence or absence of co-occurring alterations to BRAFV600, there was a trend of longer PFS for patients harboring TERT c.-124C>T mutation. Of most interest, this mutation is an independent marker of good prognosis in subgroups of patients with poor prognosis (presence of brain metastasis and elevated level of lactate dehydrogenase, LDH). Moreover, combination of elevated LDH level, presence of brain metastasis, and TERT c.-124C>T mutation was identified as the best fit model for predicting clinical outcome. Our work revealed the potential interest of c.-124C>T status determination in order to refine the prognosis of BRAFV600 melanoma under mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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16 pages, 3596 KiB  
Article
Simultaneously Inhibiting BCL2 and MCL1 Is a Therapeutic Option for Patients with Advanced Melanoma
Cancers 2020, 12(8), 2182; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12082182 - 05 Aug 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 2984
Abstract
There is an urgent need to develop treatments for patients with melanoma who are refractory to or ineligible for immune checkpoint blockade, including patients who lack BRAF-V600E/K mutations. This is often the case in patients diagnosed with rare melanoma subtypes such as mucosal [...] Read more.
There is an urgent need to develop treatments for patients with melanoma who are refractory to or ineligible for immune checkpoint blockade, including patients who lack BRAF-V600E/K mutations. This is often the case in patients diagnosed with rare melanoma subtypes such as mucosal and acral melanoma. Here, we analyzed data from the cutaneous melanoma The Cancer Genome Atlas Network (TCGA) transcriptomic and proteomic databases for differential expression of apoptosis molecules between melanomas with or without BRAF hotspot mutations. Our data indicated higher B-cell CLL/lymphoma 2 (BCL2) expression in melanoma without BRAF hotspot mutations, suggesting that BH3 mimetics, such as ABT-199 (venetoclax, a small molecule against BCL2), may be a potential therapeutic option for these patients. We explored the efficacy of combining two BH3 mimetics, ABT-199 and a myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (MCL1) inhibitor (S63845 or S64315/MIK665) in cutaneous, mucosal and acral melanomas, in vitro and in vivo. Our data indicate this combination induced cell death in a broad range of melanoma cell lines, including melanoma initiating cell populations, and was more potent in melanoma cells without BRAF-V600E/K mutations. Our knockdown/knockout experiments suggest that several pro-apoptotic BCL2 family members, BCL2-like 11 (apoptosis facilitator) (BIM), phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate-induced protein 1 (NOXA) or BID, play a role in the combination-induced effects. Overall, our study supports the rationale for combining an MCL1 inhibitor with a BCL2 inhibitor as a therapeutic option in patients with advanced melanoma. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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15 pages, 1648 KiB  
Article
Age Does Matter in Adolescents and Young Adults versus Older Adults with Advanced Melanoma; A National Cohort Study Comparing Tumor Characteristics, Treatment Pattern, Toxicity and Response
Cancers 2020, 12(8), 2072; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12082072 - 27 Jul 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 3040
Abstract
Cutaneous melanoma is a common type of cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (AYAs, 15–39 years of age). However, AYAs are underrepresented in clinical trials investigating new therapies and the outcomes from these therapies for AYAs are therefore unclear. Using prospectively collected nation-wide [...] Read more.
Cutaneous melanoma is a common type of cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (AYAs, 15–39 years of age). However, AYAs are underrepresented in clinical trials investigating new therapies and the outcomes from these therapies for AYAs are therefore unclear. Using prospectively collected nation-wide data from the Dutch Melanoma Treatment Registry (DMTR), we compared baseline characteristics, mutational profiles, treatment strategies, grade 3–4 adverse events (AEs), responses and outcomes in AYAs (n = 210) and older adults (n = 3775) who were diagnosed with advanced melanoma between July 2013 and July 2018. Compared to older adults, AYAs were more frequently female (51% versus 40%, p = 0.001), and had a better Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status (ECOG 0 in 54% versus 45%, p = 0.004). BRAF and NRAS mutations were age dependent, with more BRAF V600 mutations in AYAs (68% versus 46%) and more NRAS mutations in older adults (13% versus 21%), p < 0.001. This finding translated in distinct first-line treatment patterns, where AYAs received more initial targeted therapy. Overall, grade 3–4 AE percentages following first-line systemic treatment were similar for AYAs and older adults; anti-PD-1 (7% versus 14%, p = 0.25), anti-CTLA-4 (16% versus 33%, p = 0.12), anti-PD-1 + anti-CTLA-4 (67% versus 56%, p = 0.34) and BRAF/MEK-inhibition (14% versus 23%, p = 0.06). Following anti-CTLA-4 treatment, no AYAs experienced a grade 3–4 colitis, while 17% of the older adults did (p = 0.046). There was no difference in response to treatment between AYAs and older adults. The longer overall survival observed in AYAs (hazard ratio (HR) 0.7; 95% CI 0.6–0.8) was explained by the increased cumulative incidence of non-melanoma related deaths in older adults (sub-distribution HR 2.8; 95% CI 1.5–4.9), calculated by competing risk analysis. The results of our national cohort study show that baseline characteristics and mutational profiles differ between AYAs and older adults with advanced melanoma, leading to different treatment choices made in daily practice. Once treatment is initiated, AYAs and older adults show similar tumor responses and melanoma-specific survival. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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17 pages, 3717 KiB  
Article
Characterization of a Myeloid Activation Signature That Correlates with Survival in Melanoma Patients
Cancers 2020, 12(6), 1431; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12061431 - 31 May 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2524
Abstract
Understanding the cellular interactions within the tumor microenvironment (TME) of melanoma paved the way for novel therapeutic modalities, such as T cell-targeted immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI). However, only a limited fraction of patients benefits from such therapeutic modalities, highlighting the need for novel [...] Read more.
Understanding the cellular interactions within the tumor microenvironment (TME) of melanoma paved the way for novel therapeutic modalities, such as T cell-targeted immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI). However, only a limited fraction of patients benefits from such therapeutic modalities, highlighting the need for novel predictive and prognostic biomarkers. As myeloid cells orchestrate the tumor-specific immune response and influence the efficacy of ICI, assessing their activation state within the TME is of clinical relevance. Here, we characterized a myeloid activation (MA) signature, comprising the three genes Cxcl11, Gbp1, and Ido1, from gene expression data of human myeloid cells stimulated with poly(I:C) or cGAMP. This MA signature positively correlated to overall survival in melanoma. In addition, increased expression of the MA signature was observed in melanoma patients responding to ICI (anti-PD-1), as compared to non-responders. Furthermore, the MA signature was validated in the murine B16F10 melanoma model where it was induced and associated with decreased tumor growth upon intratumoral administration of poly(I:C) and cGAMP. Finally, we were able to visualize co-expression of the MA signature genes in myeloid cells of human melanoma tissues using RNAscope in situ hybridization. In conclusion, the MA signature indicates the activation state of myeloid cells and represents a prognostic biomarker for the overall survival in melanoma patients. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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14 pages, 677 KiB  
Article
Surgery for Unresectable Stage IIIC and IV Melanoma in the Era of New Systemic Therapy
Cancers 2020, 12(5), 1176; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12051176 - 07 May 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2379
Abstract
Opportunities for surgical treatment in metastatic melanoma patients have re-emerged due to the development of novel systemic therapeutics over the past decade. The aim of this study is to present data on outcomes of surgery in patients with unresectable stage IIIC and IV [...] Read more.
Opportunities for surgical treatment in metastatic melanoma patients have re-emerged due to the development of novel systemic therapeutics over the past decade. The aim of this study is to present data on outcomes of surgery in patients with unresectable stage IIIC and IV melanoma, who have previously been treated with immunotherapy or targeted therapy. Data was extracted from the Dutch Melanoma Treatment Registry (DMTR) on 154 patients obtaining disease control to systemic therapy and undergoing subsequent surgery. Disease control was defined as a complete response (CR), which was seen in 3.2% of patients; a partial response (PR), seen in 46.1% of patients; or stable disease (SD), seen in 44.2% of patients. At a median follow-up of 10.0 months (interquartile range 4–22) after surgery, the median overall survival (OS) had not been reached in our cohort and median progression-free survival (PFS) was 9.0 months (95% CI 6.3–11.7). A CR or PR at first follow-up after surgery was associated with both a better OS and PFS compared to stable or progressive disease (p < 0.001). We conclude that selected patients can benefit from surgery after achieving disease control with systemic therapy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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15 pages, 761 KiB  
Article
Public Adverse Event Data Insights into the Safety of Pembrolizumab in Melanoma Patients
Cancers 2020, 12(4), 1008; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12041008 - 19 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3109
Abstract
Immune checkpoint inhibition represents an important therapeutic option for advanced melanoma patients. Results from clinical studies have shown that treatment with the PD-1 inhibitors Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab provides improved response and survival rates. Moreover, combining Nivolumab with the CTLA-4 inhibitor Ipilimumab is superior [...] Read more.
Immune checkpoint inhibition represents an important therapeutic option for advanced melanoma patients. Results from clinical studies have shown that treatment with the PD-1 inhibitors Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab provides improved response and survival rates. Moreover, combining Nivolumab with the CTLA-4 inhibitor Ipilimumab is superior to the respective monotherapies. However, use of these immunotherapies is frequently associated with, sometimes life-threatening, immune-related adverse events. Thus, more evidence-based studies are required to characterize the underlying mechanisms, towards more effective clinical management and treatment monitoring. Our study examines two sets of public adverse event data coming from FAERS and VigiBase, each with more than two thousand melanoma patients treated with Pembrolizumab. Standard disproportionality metrics are utilized to characterize the safety of Pembrolizumab and its reaction profile is compared to those of the widely used Ipilimumab and Nivolumab based on melanoma cases that report only one of them. Our results confirm known toxicological considerations for their related and distinct side-effect profiles and highlight specific immune-related adverse reactions. Our retrospective computational analysis includes more patients than examined in other studies and relies on evidence coming from public pharmacovigilance data that contain safety reports from clinical and controlled studies as well as reports of suspected adverse events coming from real-world post-marketing setting. Despite these informative insights, more prospective studies are necessary to fully characterize the efficacy of these agents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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11 pages, 371 KiB  
Article
Healthcare Costs of Metastatic Cutaneous Melanoma in the Era of Immunotherapeutic and Targeted Drugs
Cancers 2020, 12(4), 1003; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12041003 - 18 Apr 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 2785
Abstract
Immunotherapeutic and targeted drugs improved survival of patients with metastatic melanoma. There is, however, a lack of evidence regarding their healthcare costs in clinical practice. The aim of our study was to provide insight into real-world healthcare costs of patients with metastatic cutaneous [...] Read more.
Immunotherapeutic and targeted drugs improved survival of patients with metastatic melanoma. There is, however, a lack of evidence regarding their healthcare costs in clinical practice. The aim of our study was to provide insight into real-world healthcare costs of patients with metastatic cutaneous melanoma. Data were obtained from the Dutch Melanoma Treatment Registry for patients who were registered between July 2012 and December 2018. Mean total/monthly costs per patient were reported for all patients, patients who did not receive systemic therapy, and patients who received systemic therapy. Furthermore, mean episode/monthly costs per line of therapy and drug were reported for patients who received systemic therapy. Mean total/monthly costs were € 89,240/€ 6809: € 7988/€ 2483 for patients who did not receive systemic therapy (n = 784) and € 105,078/€ 7652 for patients who received systemic therapy (n = 4022). Mean episode/monthly costs were the highest for nivolumab plus ipilimumab (€ 79,675/€ 16,976), ipilimumab monotherapy (€ 79,110/€ 17,252), and dabrafenib plus trametinib (€ 77,053/€ 12,015). Dacarbazine yielded the lowest mean episode/monthly costs (€ 6564/€ 2027). Our study showed that immunotherapeutic and targeted drugs had a large impact on real-world healthcare costs. As new drugs continue entering the treatment landscape for (metastatic) melanoma, it remains crucial to monitor whether the benefits of these drugs outweigh their costs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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13 pages, 3998 KiB  
Article
The Role of PTEN Loss in Immune Escape, Melanoma Prognosis and Therapy Response
Cancers 2020, 12(3), 742; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12030742 - 21 Mar 2020
Cited by 31 | Viewed by 4232
Abstract
Checkpoint blockade therapies have changed the clinical management of metastatic melanoma patients considerably, showing survival benefits. Despite the clinical success, not all patients respond to treatment or they develop resistance. Although there are several treatment predictive biomarkers, understanding therapy resistance and the mechanisms [...] Read more.
Checkpoint blockade therapies have changed the clinical management of metastatic melanoma patients considerably, showing survival benefits. Despite the clinical success, not all patients respond to treatment or they develop resistance. Although there are several treatment predictive biomarkers, understanding therapy resistance and the mechanisms of tumor immune evasion is crucial to increase the frequency of patients benefiting from treatment. The PTEN gene is thought to promote immune evasion and is frequently mutated in cancer and melanoma. Another feature of melanoma tumors that may affect the capacity of escaping T-cell recognition is melanoma cell dedifferentiation characterized by decreased expression of the microphtalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) gene. In this study, we have explored the role of PTEN in prognosis, therapy response, and immune escape in the context of MITF expression using immunostaining and genomic data from a large cohort of metastatic melanoma. We confirmed in our cohort that PTEN alterations promote immune evasion highlighted by decreased frequency of T-cell infiltration in such tumors, resulting in a worse patient survival. More importantly, our results suggest that dedifferentiated PTEN negative melanoma tumors have poor patient outcome, no T-cell infiltration, and transcriptional properties rendering them resistant to targeted- and immuno-therapy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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18 pages, 4654 KiB  
Article
The Hidden Story of Heterogeneous B-raf V600E Mutation Quantitative Protein Expression in Metastatic Melanoma—Association with Clinical Outcome and Tumor Phenotypes
Cancers 2019, 11(12), 1981; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11121981 - 09 Dec 2019
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 4010
Abstract
In comparison to other human cancer types, malignant melanoma exhibits the greatest amount of heterogeneity. After DNA-based detection of the BRAF V600E mutation in melanoma patients, targeted inhibitor treatment is the current recommendation. This approach, however, does not take the abundance of the [...] Read more.
In comparison to other human cancer types, malignant melanoma exhibits the greatest amount of heterogeneity. After DNA-based detection of the BRAF V600E mutation in melanoma patients, targeted inhibitor treatment is the current recommendation. This approach, however, does not take the abundance of the therapeutic target, i.e., the B-raf V600E protein, into consideration. As shown by immunohistochemistry, the protein expression profiles of metastatic melanomas clearly reveal the existence of inter- and intra-tumor variability. Nevertheless, the technique is only semi-quantitative. To quantitate the mutant protein there is a fundamental need for more precise techniques that are aimed at defining the currently non-existent link between the levels of the target protein and subsequent drug efficacy. Using cutting-edge mass spectrometry combined with DNA and mRNA sequencing, the mutated B-raf protein within metastatic tumors was quantitated for the first time. B-raf V600E protein analysis revealed a subjacent layer of heterogeneity for mutation-positive metastatic melanomas. These were characterized into two distinct groups with different tumor morphologies, protein profiles and patient clinical outcomes. This study provides evidence that a higher level of expression in the mutated protein is associated with a more aggressive tumor progression. Our study design, comprised of surgical isolation of tumors, histopathological characterization, tissue biobanking, and protein analysis, may enable the eventual delineation of patient responders/non-responders and subsequent therapy for malignant melanoma. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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11 pages, 2129 KiB  
Article
Switching to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors upon Response to Targeted Therapy; The Road to Long-Term Survival in Advanced Melanoma Patients with Highly Elevated Serum LDH?
Cancers 2019, 11(12), 1940; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11121940 - 04 Dec 2019
Cited by 29 | Viewed by 3236
Abstract
The prognosis of patients with advanced melanoma has improved dramatically. However, the clinical outcomes of patients with highly elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) remain very poor. The aim of this study was to explore whether patients with normalized LDH after targeted therapy could [...] Read more.
The prognosis of patients with advanced melanoma has improved dramatically. However, the clinical outcomes of patients with highly elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) remain very poor. The aim of this study was to explore whether patients with normalized LDH after targeted therapy could benefit from subsequent treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI). Data from all patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma with a highly elevated serum LDH at baseline (≥2× upper limit of normal) receiving first-line targeted therapy between 2012 and 2019 in the Netherlands were collected. Patients were stratified according to response status to targeted therapy and change in LDH at start of subsequent treatment with ICI. Differences in overall survival (OS) between the subgroups were compared using log-rank tests. After a median follow-up of 35.1 months, median OS of the total study population (n = 360) was 4.9 months (95% CI 4.4–5.4). Of all patients receiving subsequent treatment with ICI (n = 113), survival from start of subsequent treatment was significantly longer in patients who had normalized LDH and were still responding to targeted therapy compared to those with LDH that remained elevated (median OS 24.7 vs. 1.1 months). Our study suggests that introducing ICI upon response to targeted therapy with normalization of LDH could be an effective strategy in obtaining long-term survival in advanced melanoma patients with initial highly elevated serum LDH. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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Review

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22 pages, 1340 KiB  
Review
The Non-Coding Landscape of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma: A Possible Route to Efficient Targeted Therapy
Cancers 2020, 12(11), 3378; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12113378 - 15 Nov 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 2404
Abstract
Considered to be highly lethal if not diagnosed in early stages, cutaneous malignant melanoma is among the most aggressive and treatment-resistant human cancers, and its incidence continues to rise, largely due to ultraviolet radiation exposure, which is the main carcinogenic factor. Over the [...] Read more.
Considered to be highly lethal if not diagnosed in early stages, cutaneous malignant melanoma is among the most aggressive and treatment-resistant human cancers, and its incidence continues to rise, largely due to ultraviolet radiation exposure, which is the main carcinogenic factor. Over the years, researchers have started to unveil the molecular mechanisms by which malignant melanoma can be triggered and sustained, in order to establish specific, reliable biomarkers that could aid the prognosis and diagnosis of this fatal disease, and serve as targets for development of novel efficient therapies. The high mutational burden and heterogeneous nature of melanoma shifted the main focus from the genetic landscape to epigenetic and epitranscriptomic modifications, aiming at elucidating the role of non-coding RNA molecules in the fine tuning of melanoma progression. Here we review the contribution of microRNAs and lncRNAs to melanoma invasion, metastasis and acquired drug resistance, highlighting their potential for clinical applications as biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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14 pages, 279 KiB  
Review
Adjuvant Therapy for Melanoma: Past, Current, and Future Developments
Cancers 2020, 12(7), 1994; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12071994 - 21 Jul 2020
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 4153
Abstract
This review describes the progress that the concept of adjuvant therapies has undergone in the last 50 years and focuses on the most recent development where an adjuvant approach has been scientifically evaluated in melanoma clinical trials. Over the past decade the development [...] Read more.
This review describes the progress that the concept of adjuvant therapies has undergone in the last 50 years and focuses on the most recent development where an adjuvant approach has been scientifically evaluated in melanoma clinical trials. Over the past decade the development of immunotherapies and targeted therapies has drastically changed the treatment of stage IV melanoma patients. These successes led to trials studying the same therapies in the adjuvant setting, in high risk resected stage III and IV melanoma patients. Adjuvant immune checkpoint blockade with anti-CTLA-4 antibody ipilimumab was the first drug to show an improvement in recurrence-free and overall survival but this was accompanied by high severe toxicity rates. Therefore, these results were bypassed by adjuvant treatment with anti-PD-1 agents nivolumab and pembrolizumab and BRAF-directed target therapy, which showed even better recurrence-free survival rates with more favorable toxicity rates. The whole concept of adjuvant therapy may be integrated with the new neoadjuvant approaches that are under investigation through several clinical trials. However, there is still no data available on whether the effective adjuvant therapy that patients finally have at their disposal could be offered to them while waiting for recurrence, sparing at least 50% of them a potentially long-term toxic side effect but with the same rate of overall survival (OS). Adjuvant therapy for melanoma has radically changed over the past few years—anti-PD-1 or BRAF-directed therapy is the new standard of care. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
16 pages, 844 KiB  
Review
Current Therapies and New Targets to Fight Melanoma: A Promising Role for the β3-Adrenoreceptor
Cancers 2020, 12(6), 1415; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12061415 - 30 May 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2465
Abstract
Melanoma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer and the most deadly skin cancer. According to World Health Organization, about 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. Thanks to the efficacy of new therapies, life expectation has been improved over [...] Read more.
Melanoma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer and the most deadly skin cancer. According to World Health Organization, about 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. Thanks to the efficacy of new therapies, life expectation has been improved over the last years. However, some malignant melanomas still remain unresponsive to these therapies. The β-adrenergic system, among its many physiological roles, has been recognized as the main mediator of stress-related tumorigenic events. In particular, catecholamine activation of β-adrenergic receptors (β-ARs) affects several processes that sustain cancer progression. Among the β-AR subtypes, the β3-AR is emerging as an important regulator of tumorigenesis. In this review, we summarize data of different experimental studies focused on β3-AR involvement in tumor development in various types of cancer and, particularly, in melanoma. Taken together, the preclinical evidences reported in this review demonstrate the crucial role of β3-AR in regulating the complex signaling network driving melanoma progression. Therefore, a need exists to further disseminate this new concept and to investigate more deeply the role of β3-AR as a possible therapeutic target for counteracting melanoma progression at clinical level. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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2 pages, 185 KiB  
Comment
Comment on Katsarelias, D., et al. “The Effect of Beta-Adrenergic Blocking Agents in Cutaneous Melanoma—A Nation-Wide Swedish Population-Based Retrospective Register Study” Cancers 2020, 12, 3228
Cancers 2021, 13(1), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13010095 - 30 Dec 2020
Viewed by 1104
Abstract
We read the paper by Katsarelias et al. with great interest, regarding the effect of beta-adrenergic blocking agents on cutaneous melanoma [1]. However, the study presents some methodology biases that do not allow us to support the authors’ conclusions. The paper suffers from [...] Read more.
We read the paper by Katsarelias et al. with great interest, regarding the effect of beta-adrenergic blocking agents on cutaneous melanoma [1]. However, the study presents some methodology biases that do not allow us to support the authors’ conclusions. The paper suffers from the unification and evaluation of multiple registries, which do not provide essential data for any of the targets for research. Unlike studies in the literature [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
2 pages, 174 KiB  
Reply
Reply to Comment on Katsarelias, D., et al. “The Effect of Beta-Adrenergic Blocking Agents in Cutaneous Melanoma—A Nation-Wide Swedish Population-Based Retrospective Register Study.” Cancers 2020, 12, 3228
Cancers 2021, 13(1), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13010092 - 30 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1253
Abstract
We thank De Giorgi et al for their interest in our study, and for raising important and relevant questions [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advanced Melanoma)
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