Researchers herald 'breakthrough' skin cancer therapy

Plexxikon's early-stage experimental melanoma drug PLX4032 looks like a "major breakthrough," says one leading researcher after reviewing new data from a small trial.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York tested the therapy on 27 patients and "19 showed a 30 percent or greater reduction in tumor size," says Dr. Paul Chapman, the lead researcher. With over 70 percent of the aggressive skin cancer patients demonstrating a response, Chapman says that the drug is shaping up as a significant improvement over chemotherapy, a standard of care that is effective in about 15 percent of all cases. Most of the patients in the study suffered from metastatic skin cancer and had already failed to respond to other therapies. 

"Without reservation we can say this is a breakthrough in melanoma. We haven't seen a major breakthrough in this disease in the last 40 years," said Professor Alexander Eggermont, president of the European Cancer Organization. The drug, which is partnered with Roche, works by inhibiting the effects of a mutated BRAF gene, which is linked to more than half of all melanomas.

"Since we have now confirmed the earlier Phase 1 results for PLX4032 in metastatic melanoma, we are moving quickly to advance this product candidate to pivotal trials, which we expect to start shortly," stated K. Peter Hirth, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Plexxikon.

- check out the Plexxikon release
- read the story from CNN
here's the Reuters report