A research team co-led by UCLA investigators has shown that an immunotherapy drug combination can be an effective second-line therapy for patients with an aggressive and deadly type of melanoma that is resistant to widely used immunotherapy drugs called PD-1 inhibitors.

In clinical trials, the investigators found that the combination therapy could extend the amount of time patients live without their cancer worsening, known as progression-free survival, and that it helps overcome their resistance to prior immunotherapies — which would allow more people to benefit from the treatment.

The study evaluated the use of the immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab against the current standard therapy of ipilimumab alone. The multicenter clinical trial was conducted by the SWOG Cancer Research Network, a group funded by the National Cancer Institute; the findings were reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

“The results are practice-changing,” said Dr. Antoni Ribas, the study’s senior author, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Tumor Immunology Program. “The combination approach should be the preferred drug regimen for people with cancer that has not responded to prior immunotherapy treatment.”

Read the full news release.