Out of the more than 3.5 million individuals in the United States who are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, melanoma accounts for more than 76,000 of those cases. Until now, there has been no cure for the melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, scientists may be on the brink of a medical discovery that could have “spectacular” effects in seriously ill melanoma patients.
In a recent study conducted by Stephen Hodi, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, researchers revealed that a drug called ipilimumab may hold the key to developing a cure for melanoma.
Ipilimumab is a drug that stimulates a person’s immune system, allowing the body to fight skin cancer naturally. In his study, Dr. Hodi examined data from 1,861 patients with melanoma who were treated with ipilimumab during 12 prospective and retrospective studies. His results analyzed ipilimumab’s impact on long-term survival rates.
The overall median survival rate among patients with melanoma was 11.4 months. Twenty-two percent of the patients survived three years after beginning treatment, and there were no deaths among patients who survived beyond seven years. The longest overall survival in the database was 9.9 years, according to Dr. Hodi. On average, only about 15 percent of patients with Stage IV melanoma (the most severe stage) survive five years after diagnosis. However, this percentage increases with less advanced stages of melanoma.
“These results are important to healthcare providers and patients with advanced melanoma since they provide a perspective on long-term survival for ipilimumab patients who are alive after three years of treatment,” said Dr. Hodi. “Our data, which represent the longest follow-up of the largest numbers of patients on any globally approved melanoma therapy, will provide a benchmark for future medicines for advanced melanoma.”
While this study is a step in the right direction, researchers and physicians are still searching for a cure for melanoma. Early detection from regular skin exams is vital for treating this disease, which is 99 percent curable when detected in its earliest stages. Call Greenville Dermatology at (864) 242-5872 to make an appointment with Dr. Miller today.