Melanoma survival boosted with new drug

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | Health News | Monday, May 23, 2016 - 10:00 AM

Melanoma survival boosted with new drugA new drug to treat melanoma is boosting survival rates with some patients even being cured of skin cancer. Keytruda (pembrolizumab) helped four in 10 patients with advanced melanoma stay alive. Complete remission was also seen in 15 percent of patients and some remained cancer-free even after stopping Keytruda. Keytruda has seen some success as former president Jimmy Carter was taking it during his battle with melanoma.

Although Keytruda has been found to be beneficial, it unfortunately comes with a large price tag of $12,500 a month.

Dr. Caroline Robert, head of the dermatology unit at the Institut Gustave-Roussy, said, “Pembrolizumab provides long-term survival benefit in patients with advanced melanoma, with 41 percent of patients alive at three years, which is so different from what we’ve come from. We have durable responses in one-third of the patients, and we have complete responses that are durable even after stopping the treatment.”

Cancer expert Dr. Don Dizon added, “I think it’s incredibly encouraging that we could see a potential cure in melanoma as evidenced by the very prolonged response rate and the durability of this response.”

Keytruda helps the body’s immune system locate and destroy local tumors by preventing the cancer from cloaking itself so it can go undetected.

The clinical trial involved 655 patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma. Participants receive Keytruda every two to three weeks through IV. Long-term follow-up showed that four of 10 participants were alive for three years after Keytruda and 95 percent went into complete remission.

Side effects were minimal, but the real challenge is the cost of a whopping $150,000 a year.

Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on Untreated sleep apnea linked to aggressive melanoma.


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