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Skin Cancer Patients Find Hope In New Drugs

Patients with an advanced form of skin cancer have found new hope after two drugs which could prolong life are now to be widely used. Clinical trials have shown that Yervoy – also known as Ipilimumab – and Vemurafenib, can extend the lives of patients with advanced melanoma by up to four years. Tests for Vemurafenib showed a reduction in the size of tumours for more than half of patients.

Professor Carole Longson, director at the Health Technology Evaluation Centre, said: “These new draft recommendations represent really good news for skin cancer patients. Vemurafenib and Ipilimumab are breakthrough treatments that can potentially significantly affect prognosis for these patients.”

Vemurafenib, which is also known as Zelboraf and is manufactured by Roche, has been recommended for the treatment of late-stage metastatic melanoma. Ipilimumab, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is recommended for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma in people who have received prior chemotherapy.

The drugs are not suitable for all melanoma patients but former town clerk Barry Smith, 62, from Merseyside in the UK is currently taking one of the drugs now given approval for NHS use. He said: “When one is given a drug that can reduce your cancer and you can see the positive effects of the drug your whole being, physically and mentally grows in confidence about your future. I fully realise that the drug is not a cure but a prolonging of life and hopefully a better quality of life for the time one has left cannot be underestimated. If the drug Vemurafenib could be given to patients at an early stage, perhaps it could prevent patients progressing to an advanced form of the cancer.”