Two new drugs for advanced malignant melanoma may improve survival

Patients with advanced malignant melanoma taking the experimental drug, vemurafenib, were 63 percent less likely to dies than those who were given chemotherapy.  After three months, patients had a 74 percent reduction in the risk of skin cancer progression and half had tumor shrinkage compared to chemotherapy. This drug is designed to be used in patients whose melanoma tumors have a mutation in the BRAF gene that allows melanoma cells to grow. About half of melanomas have this genetic mutation.

In a different study, patients with advanced malignant melanoma who were treated with ipilimumab plus chemotherapy lived an average of two months longer than those who were given chemotherapy alone. This drug stimulates the immune system to help fight off the cancer cells.

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