THE deadliest form of skin cancer can be battled successfully by using a new combination of smart drugs, new research has shown.
Even when diagnosed at a late stage, the results of the study reveal this new combination of two drugs can wipe out melanoma. In more than one in five patients, even when the cancer had spread to other parts of the body, the treatment was successful.
Doctors in the field have greeted the findings and called them “very promising.”
In total, 142 patients with advanced melanoma were treated with the new combination of drugs. Either the drug Ipilimumab alone or in combination with similar treatment called Nivolumab.
Latest figures show that 2,100 died in 2013 from melanoma, with 14,500 people diagnosed with the disease.
Checkmate, who undertook the study, show that 69 per cent of patients given the new drug were still alive two years later, compared 53 per cent of patients given just one drug, ipilimumab alone.
And remarkably, 22 per cent of patients even saw the tumour destroyed altogether with the combination drug.
“Combining these two immunotherapies is an effective two-pronged attack against the cancer,” said Consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden Hospital Dr James Larkin.
“The overall survival rates … are very promising and provide further hope for patients and their families affected by this disease.”
When used together the drugs block the tumour’s ability to neutralise key cells in the immune system, and the strategy allows the body to attack the cancer with full force.
This combination of drugs has not yet been approved for use in the UK or Europe.
Currently Ipilimumab drug costs £63,000 for a course of just four infusions, while Nivolumab costs £5,700 a month and is taken long term so unless taken privately it is impossible to obtain at the moment.
Dr Aine McCarthy from Cancer Research UK said: “These drugs are already available individually on the NHS so the next stage is to see whether the combination will be approved.
“With more clinical trials we can make sure the right patients get treatment, confirm it is safe and effective, and then think about the costs.”
With skin cancer rates on the rise, education on the effects of the sun, especially along the Costas is paramount.