Effective skin cancer drugs on the rise

Jun 29, 2011

Skin cancer patients may have new course of treatment

One of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer may soon have a new course of treatment. Patients with stage IV metastatic melanoma have an average survival rate of just eight to 18 months after diagnosis, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a study released last week, researchers have been able to produce success in the treatment of this disease using two separate drugs, possibly lowering the cost of life insurance for people suffering from this illness.

Vemurafenib targets a gene mutation that is present in almost half of all melanomas, according to the Associated Press. After six months of treatment, 84 percent of patients taking this medicine were alive, versus 64 percent of those who were not on the treatment, according to the study.

The second drug, Yervoy, was just recently approved to treat newly-diagnosed patients and it was discovered that the number of patients who lived for another three years after treatment doubled after taking the medication.

"This is a very exciting time in the field of melanoma," Dr. Perry Robins, president of the Skin Cancer Foundation, said in a written statement after the approval of Yervoy. "As melanoma incidence continues to rise, we are hopeful that this new therapy will extend life and improve the quality of life for patients with metastatic melanoma." 

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