Drug company announces possible breakthrough in melanoma treatment

Feb 07, 2011

New drug could help battle tumors

A drug specifically tailored to stop the progression of the deadliest form of skin cancer has performed well in clinical trials, according to pharmaceutical firm Roche.

The BRAF V600 mutation is found in about half of all cases of malignant melanoma, Roche said, and it tends to spread aggressively. However, the company's new drug - known at this point only by the designation RG7204 - specifically targets the mutated genes that characterize the deadly disease.

Roche chief medical officer and head of global product development Hal Barron said the results could represent a significant step forward.

"For the first time, a personalized investigational medicine, RG7204, has shown a significant survival benefit in metastatic melanoma. This is an important advance for people with the BRAF V600 mutation-positive form of the disease who have had extremely limited treatment options," he said.

The New York Times reported that, particularly in combination with other specialty drugs, Roche's advance could be a lifesaver.

Avoiding melanoma in the first place is still preferable, experts say, since developing even a benign form of skin cancer will sharply raise life insurance rates.

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