Researchers, led by Takami Sato, M.D., K. Hasumi Associate Professor of Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, have shown promising results from an early, phase 1-2 clinical trial of a novel treatment for uveal melanoma that has spread to the liver.
In the procedure, called immunoembolization, Dr. Sato and his co-workers "embolize," or block off the hepatic artery, which is a major artery feeding the liver, cutting off oxygen to liver tumors. They infuse a chemical called GM-CSF, which stimulates the immune system specifically, cells called macrophages and dendritic cells to produce an inflammatory reaction, and it's hoped, fight the cancer. In the trial, which was aimed at testing for treatment toxicity and feasibility, Dr. Sato found that 30 percent of 39 patients studied (34 of whom had uveal melanoma) had tumor shrinkage and another 30 percent had tumors that didn't grow.
He presents his team's findings May 17, 2005 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando. "We have seen a surprising phenomenon," he says. "Compared to chemoembolization (a similar, older therapy that entails giving a patient chemotherapy directly into the liver), our patients did just as well and some did better. The treatment is doing something to prolong survival.
"If we're right," Dr. Sato says, "we could delay metastases."
Dr. Sato also found a response in other tumors in the body besides the liver a potentially important finding, he says. Patients in the study lived on average about twice as long compared to those who received