April 1998

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

A new nationwide study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and underway at several hospital and community-based sites, including the Winship Cancer Center of Emory University, combines two cancer treatments, immunotherapy and chemotherapy, to treat patients with metastatic melanoma. The incidence of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is growing rapidly in the United States. Metastatic melanoma - when the cancer spreads to other organs - is one of the hardest cancers to treat, and has one of the worst survival rates for patients.

The new therapy, called biochemotherapy, has shown promising results in early studies to test its toxicity. The new trial is comparing the effectiveness of biochemotherapy to a traditional chemotherapy regimen.

"We are hoping to determine whether this combination of therapies can really make a difference in a patient's life expectancy and quality of life as compared to the best medicine we can offer patients now," said David Lawson, M.D., Emory medical oncologist and principal investigator for the Emory arm of the trial. The study is taking place at numerous sites across the country.

The drugs used in the study include the newly approved immunotherapy drug interleukin-2 and interferon-alpha combined with a combination of the chemotherapy drugs cisplatin, vinblastine and dacarbazine (CVD).

While the two types of therapy have each been shown to be helpful in up to 20 percent of patients when used separately, the combination has achieved tumor shrinkage in up to 50 percent of patients in previous trials.

The purpose of the current trial is to determine whether there will be improved survival when the two types of therapy are given together rather than separately.

Patients in the trial will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group will be given the biochemotherapy, and the other, the control group, will receive CVD, which is the current "standard" treatment for the disease. Patients receiving biochemotherapy will stay in the hospital for treatment, while those receiving the standard chemotherapy may get their treatment through their community oncologists. When the trial is over, patients in the control arm of the study will be offered the option of also receiving an immunotherapy drug.

"Patients diagnosed with metastatic melanoma have had very few options up to this point," Lawson said. "This new combination therapy is a promising treatment for patients who currently face a poor long term prognosis."

The Winship Cancer Center of Emory University is dedicated to providing leadership and excellence in all aspects of cancer, including patient care, education, and basic, translational and clinical research. Providing a professional community to allow interaction of all members, divisions and departments involved in cancer treatment or research, the Winship Cancer Center is part of Emory University's Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

Patients with newly diagnosed, untreated metastatic melanoma may be eligible for the trial and should discuss their treatment options with their primary care physician or community oncologist to see if this treatment would be right for them. For more information on the study, contact Carol Hill at (404) 778-4907.


For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to

Copyright ©Emory University, 1998. All Rights Reserved.
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