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Novel Drug Combats Advanced Melanoma
Date:6/5/2010

First in its class, ipilimumab showed 68% increase in survival, researchers report

SATURDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say that a new drug to treat melanoma, the first in its class, improved survival by 68 percent in patients whose disease had spread from the skin to other parts of the body.

This is big news in the field of melanoma research, where survival rates have refused to budge, despite numerous efforts to come up with an effective treatment for the increasingly common and fatal skin cancer over the past three decades.

"The last time a drug was approved for metastatic melanoma was 12 years ago, and 85 percent of people who take that drug have no benefit, so finding another drug that is going to have an impact, and even a bigger impact than what's out there now, is a major improvement for patients," said Timothy Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The findings on the drug, called ipilimumab, were reported simultaneously Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago and in the June 5 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ipilimumab is the first in a new class of targeted T-cell antibodies, with potential applications for other cancers as well.

Both the incidence of metastatic melanoma and the death rate have risen during the past 30 years, and patients with advanced disease typically have limited treatment options.

"Ipilimumab is a human monoclonal antibody directed against CTLA-4, which is on the surface of T-cells [which fight infection]," explained lead study author Dr. Steven O'Day, director of the melanoma program at the Angeles Clinic and Research Institute in Los Angeles. "CTL is a very important break to the immune system, so by blocking this break with ipilimumab, it accelerates and potentiates the T-cells. And by doing that they become activate
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