Tuesday, March 29. 2011
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug that has been shown to prolong the lives of patients with advanced melanoma.
The drug, Yervoy, was developed by pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and works by using the body's own immune system to fight tumors. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, which said the disease killed about 8,700 people in the U.S. last year.
In a clinical trial of the drug, doctors found that 20 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma who were treated with Yervoy were still alive two years later, compared with 13.7 percent of those in the control group.
However, a Yervoy treatment, which is administered in four infusions over three months, is likely to be costly even for those with health insurance coverage. The Washington Post reports that one treatment cycle would cost about $120,000.
Exposure to harsh ultra violet radiation during childhood could lead to melanoma later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement that said teens should be banned from indoor tanning to reduce their chance of developing the disease.
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