Cutaneous melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer, and is connected with the majority of skin cancer-related deaths. In recent years, therapy for cutaneous melanoma has advanced significantly through identification of new therapeutic targets and the development of novel immunotherapeutic agents. The identification of BRAF as well as other driver mutations, have allowed for targeted treatment. In addition, immune checkpoint inhibition has radically changed the treatment options over the past years. But there is still a high medical need to improve treatment and increase long term survival of melanoma patients.
Early study results from the trial Checkmate-238 indicate that nivolimab may have reduced cancer recurrence rate in melanoma patients who have undergone surgical removal of the cancer.
AXL overexpression drives cancer formation, tumour angiogenesis, resistance to chemotherapeutic, and decreased antitumor immune response. Several AXL inhibitors are currently in preclinical and clinical development, also for the treatment of melanoma.
Clinical benefit of targeted therapies is usually transient in melanoma patients because of the rapid emergence of drug resistance. Identifying strategies to overcome resistance to targeted therapies and increase the proportion of responders to immunotherapies are the important next steps in melanoma drug discovery research.