The rates of melanoma have been consistently rising in the last three decades: statistics from the American Cancer Society indicate that about 91,270 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2018; approximately 9,320 people will die of melanoma in the same year.
In light of the rapid rise of both melanoma and overall skin cancer cases, there is a pressing need for increased treatment options and targeted therapies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a combination treatment for melanoma in the form of encorafenib and binimetinib (Braftovi and Mektovi), for patients with ‘unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600E or V600K mutation.’
This specific combination has demonstrated an effective delay in disease progression, and improved overall survival rate. The FDA approval was based upon results from the COLUMBUS trial: a randomized, active-controlled, open-label trial that included 577 patients. An analysis released in February of this year revealed a 39% reduction in the risk of death in patients who received the combination, compared with vemurafenib: another drug designed for the treatment of late-stage melanoma.
This example of targeted therapy—using medication designed to target specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells—is used to treat melanomas that have spread beyond the skin, and includes other targeted therapy drugs such as Vemurafenib (Zelboraf), dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist). These drugs are only effective if the cancer cells have a certain genetic mutation, however; other treatment options can include biological therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and potentially surgery to remove affected lymph nodes.
The best treatments for melanoma vary and depend upon the stage of cancer, overall patient health, and personal preferences. One of the primary goals of the South Beach Symposium agenda is to educate clinicians on best practices & protocols in skin cancer and dermoscopy: including specific treatments, and potential referrals to oncologists or surgeons that specialize in Mohs surgery (microscopically controlled surgery used to treat common types of skin cancer). The first portion of General Session on Thursday, February 7th will focus on the “Diagnosis, Management, and Treatment of Skin Cancer,” and “Advanced Imaging Techniques: Dermoscopy through Confocal.”