Melanoma is a cancer arising from the malignant transformation of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, mostly in the epidermis, but also in other pigment-containing sites such as the eyes, meninges, oesophagus and mucous membranes.
Melanoma is reported as the 19th most common cancer worldwide, with estimated incidence rates of 2.8–3.1 per 100,000 and 132,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, the incidence of melanoma around the world has been rising annually. The overall 5-year survival rate of melanoma patients is 91.8%, but drops to only 10-15% in Metastatic melanoma, or stage IV melanoma patients.
Immunotherapy is the use of medicines to stimulate a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Several types of immunotherapy and specifically Immune checkpoint immunomodulators have shown promise in treating advanced melanomas. Melanoma cells sometimes use these checkpoints, which are proteins on immune cells that need to be turned on (or off) to start an immune response, to avoid being attacked by the immune system. By targeting the checkpoint proteins, these drugs help restoring the immune response against melanoma cells. In recent years, few checkpoint immunomodulators drugs, including anti CTLA-4 Ipilimumab and anti PD-1 Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab were approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma and additional indications such as lung, head, and neck cancers. Although the checkpoint immunomodulators drugs did extend the survival of patients, this strategy has not met the high expectations. Many cancer types are not responsive to the treatment and even patients with the same cancer type react differently to the same immunomodulator drug. One of the possible explanations for the differences between responders and non-responders is the state of the dynamic complex nature of the immune system. In addition, these drugs are associated with adverse side effects and their extremely high cost creates a financial load on the patient and the healthcare provider.
Molecular biomarkers for early detection and prediction of drug responsiveness remain major challenges in Melanoma, and there is a significant clinical need to identify the responsive population, avoid unnecessary administration of the drug to those patients who do not respond, and consider alternative treatment options.
PTM Biosciences is applying its Post Translational Modifications (PTM) profiling platform by analyzing liquid biopsies of Melanoma patients and generating diagnostic biomarkers that can predict the response of Melanoma patients to immunotherapy and serve as the basis for the development of novel treatments.