New Drug to Treat Melanoma

A new drug has recently been approved by the FDA to treat the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. The Texas Oncology cancer center here in Wichita Falls just began treating patients with this new and more effective drug.  Texas Oncology Doctor Praveen Reddy says this new drug has more than doubled the survival rate of melanoma patients, compared to previous treatments used before like chemotherapy and biotherapy.

More than 70,000 people in the US are diagnosed with melanoma every year according to the American Cancer Society. Doctor Reddy says the lifetime risk of developing melanoma is 1 in 35 for men and 1 in 55 for women. He says he is already treating a patient with this new drug called "Yervoy." He says the patient is doing really well.

Dr. Reddy says, "Previously before this Yervoy was approved, they were using drugs like interferon and interleukin. They're very hard drugs on the patients, cause a lot of side effects. They need to be hospitalized. They were having significant problems with their blood pressure, nausea and fatigue."

But he says this new drug is a much easier treatment for melanoma patients. He says, "Fortunately with this new drug it doesn't have a significant side effect. It can be given in the clinic and easy to tolerate. And very rarely patients can have some elevated liver enzymes and thyroid malfunctions, which we've been monitoring very closely."

Doctor Reddy says melanomas responded very poorly to chemotherapy drugs, but Yervoy has been very effective.  He says, "The FDA approved a new drug called Yervoy, molecule and antibody. And in the Phase III research studies, that did show significant improvement in the response rates as well as overall survival when compared to the standard drugs we've been using all these years."

Doctor Reddy says some people are at a greater risk for melanoma, such as people with fair skin. He suggests staying out of the sun, avoiding tanning beds, and wearing at least SPF 15 when going outside to protect your skin. The treatment costs several thousand dollars, but there is financial assistance available through medical insurance.

Jessica Abuchaibe, Newschannel 6.