New drug to help fight melanoma

In late March of 2011 the first drug shown to prolong the lives of people with the skin cancer melanoma has become available. The approval came from the United States' Food and Drug Administration.

The drug, is known as "Yervoy". It was developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and is a novel type of cancer drug. It works by using the body's immune system to fight tumors.

In a clinical trial, the patients with metastatic melanoma who were treated with Yervoy lived a median of about 10 months. This is compared with 6.4 months for patients in a control group who received a treatment which had little affect. Of the people in the control group about 20% lived two years or longer.

The cost is high. Bristol-Myers said it would charge $120,000 for a complete course of the treatment. The complete treatment consists of four infusions given over three months. This high costs versus the few months of prolonged life make it a treatment that not everyone will choose.

Australia is waiting for the availability of this drug. Australia has the highest skin-cancer incidence rate in the world. Two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70.

Australia's statistics show that in 2005 there were 10,684 new cases of melanoma diagnosed. Melanoma is the fourth most common form of cancer in Australia.

Keep the research going - cancer can be beaten!