Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide. The incidence of melanoma in people under 30 is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50% in young women since 1980. By regular skin cancer screenings Melanoma can be detected in its early stages and successfully removed. However, in later stages Melanoma can be deadly and until recently few treatment options were available. The New York Times reports that two new drugs have shown new promise to prolong lives of those with advanced melanoma. While it is not a cure for metastatic melanoma it may add several months to the expected lifespans of patients.
Trials recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine provide evidence that vemurafenib and ipilimumab improve survival rates of advanced melanoma patients by one attacking a specific genetic mutation and the other by unleashing the body’s immune system to fight the disease respectively. The manufactures of the two new drugs are planning trials to use the agents together and see if the combination will improve patient outcomes further.