Combined nivolumab and ipilimumab in melanoma metastatic to the brain

A combination of two drugs — ipilimumab (Yervoy—Bristol-Myers Squibb) and nivolumab (Opdivo—Bristol-Myers Squibb) — that activate the immune system shrank brain tumors in many melanoma patients and prolonged life in a study of 94 people at 28 medical centers in the United States.

A combination of two drugs — ipilimumab (Yervoy—Bristol-Myers Squibb) and nivolumab (Opdivo—Bristol-Myers Squibb) — that activate the immune system shrank brain tumors in many melanoma patients and prolonged life in a study of 94 people at 28 medical centers in the United States. Melanoma is more likely than most cancers to spread to the brain, and once it gets there, less than 20% of patients survive 1 year with traditional treatments. But in the study, 82% were still alive after a year. Treating cancer that has spread to the brain is a new frontier for the type of drugs, checkpoint inhibitors, used in the study. Hussein A. Tawbi, MD, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of melanoma medical oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, says melanoma patients like those in the study should be offered the drug combination as part of their initial treatment. He says the drugs should also be tested in people with other types of cancer that have spread to the brain. The results do not apply to people with tumors that originate in the brain. An on the study agreed with Tawbi’s recommendations, cautioning that the findings do not apply to all melanoma patients, only to those exactly like the ones in the study. Those patients had one or more brain tumors, detected by scans, that were not causing symptoms.