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FDA approves new drug for late-stage melanoma
March 25th, 2011
12:29 PM ET

FDA approves new drug for late-stage melanoma

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first  melanoma  drug in 13 years. The new drug, ipilimumab, which will be sold under the brand name Yervoy and manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is designed to stop the cancer cells from growing by stimulating the immune system to recognize the cancer cells as something to attack.

"Late-stage melanoma is devastating, with very few treatment options for patients, none of which previously prolonged a patient's life," Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA's Office of Oncology Drug Products said in a press statement."Yervoy is the first therapy approved by the FDA to clearly demonstrate that patients with metastatic melanoma live longer by taking this treatment."

"It's good solid base hit, but it's not a home run," says Tim Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation. "The response rates are in the low 20% rate, so three-fourths of the people who take it won't benefit from it," Turnham says. "It's pretty clear we still have a long way to go."

The drug extended survival for advanced (stage 4) metastatic melanoma patients beyond standard of care by about 4 months in patients who had already failed another form of therapy. While it's currently being used only in stage 4 melanoma patients, Turnham says there is interest in using it in some stage 3 patients as well.

Turnham adds that another drug is expected out this year and that if you could combine them with the first killing the tumor cells and the other stimulating the immune system, "That's exciting to think about.

"most people believe the answers will only be found in combinations of drugs, two or more together," he says.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. If the cancer is found early, it can be easily removed and treated.  But if the cancer cells grow and spread, it can be very difficult to control, according to the National Institutes of Health. An estimated 114,900 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2010, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, with nearly 8,700 resulting in death.

While  the real cause of melanoma is still unknown, experts says about 65% of cases can be attributed to ultraviolet  radiation from the sun.  It's the most common form of cancer for 25-29 years old and the second most common for 15-29 years old.

The side effects of ipilimumab seem to be fairly rare and can be easily managed, says Dr. Douglas W. Blayney from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. But he cautions that as the treatment is more widely used, there could be rare, unusual infections.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, patients who received ipilimumab lived on average 32% longer and had a 20% greater chance of surviving one year, compared with patients who received a melanoma vaccine instead.  Another positive Blayney adds, is, "Most people who have found success with it can tolerate long-term treament with it."

But the big hiccup according to Blayney may be the price. "It's likely to be expensive," he says.

Turnham makes a broader point. "Not only does this drug offer new hope for patients, but the approval of this drug highlights the importance for patients to be aware of their treatment options, because the landscape for melanoma is changing quickly. Patients who are aware of the new treatments coming out in their field have the best chance of surviving. It's just another example of how cancer patients need to take better control of their cancer care."


soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Jesus

    20% get a life extension benefit of about 4 months. The rest get no benefit. Hardly something to cheer about. We've go a very long way to go.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shawnswidow

      Melanoma can sit idle for a very long time and then suddenly and literally explode. 4 months may seem short to you, but it's a long time when you're facing no options and death. Been there, done that! Thank you Brisol-Meyers Squibb

      March 25, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
    • CT

      Unless it's you that's about to die young

      March 25, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
    • Biologist13

      I know a great deal about this drug... it is not a "late stage melanoma drug" it is an immune enhancement drug. It was used in a late stage melanoma trial because the hurdles are low and the readout is not that long. I know that several patients in stage one and stage two trials for this and identical drugs being developed in parallel by other large companies had complete recoveries from earlier stage melanoma. This and other drugs like it have difficulty getting through our regulatory system because only a % of people do respond. When it is used in a very sick patient population the natural inflammatory response initiated by the drug can actually kill people earlier who are already on the verge of death. But the potential to use this drug in patients who are not yet on their death bed is enormous, since it is really just an immune enhancer it has the potential to also be used for just about any infectious disease or cancer. don't knock something you don't understand.

      March 25, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
    • Casey

      @Jesus

      Do you have melanoma? Move on to another topic if not...

      Melanoma is a tough fight. Different and frustrating in all of it's forms. My father is dealing with melanoma now. We are researching everything, EVERYTHING, out there. If this gives him more time with me and my family we will take it. As others have posted, I will look into anything that is available just to spend more time with those that I love.

      Maybe you feel differently so maybe this isn't the place for your posts.

      March 25, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
    • Triple A

      If it is me... I'll take those 4 months.

      March 25, 2011 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
    • Tina

      4 months is a very long time to someone who is dying or a family who is losing their loved one. Yes cancer research does still have a long way to go, but every little bit counts and helps.

      March 25, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      Jesus, my father died 2 years ago from stage 4 melanoma. He was on this drug on a trial basis and after he was given 6 months to a year to live before the drug he lasted 3 years from the first diagnosis. It was a miracle to get the extra time we both had together because of this drug and his will to live. At least now patients have some hope. Hope is better than most drugs with this disease.

      March 25, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      As a stage 2 Melanoma survior I am happy that are working to find something to give people hope. I am lucky that mine was caught early enough. But I go every 6 months for skin screenings and have had several more areas removed since my original diagnosis. 4 months may not seem like a lot but 4 months could mean a family member returning from serving in the military. And 20% may seem low bu to those 20% it means the world!

      My advice to everyone wear sunscreen!! It does not matter if you tan or burn naturally it only takes one patch of skin that is not visable to you daily to turn into cancer. If you have a mole that has changed even just a bit get it checked it could mean the difference between stage 1 and stage 4!!

      March 25, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
    • NW1000

      But Lord, I don't understand why you wouldn't like this. My dad died last year, and he was ready to meet you, but it would have been great to have had him around a few more months.

      March 25, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
    • notayesman

      well, as long as Obongo keeps spending money on wars and bailouts whille receiving Nobel Peace Prizes, we have centuries or even milenniums to GO!!!

      March 25, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
    • Bret

      OK, when you get stage 4 Melanoma you don't get the drug.

      March 25, 2011 at 20:30 | Report abuse |
  2. f

    My dad died of melanoma. Maybe this drug would have worked for him. I hope it helps some people. Better than nothing.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. A

    @Jesus

    Lose someone you love from cancer and feel that pain. Then have someone tell you that you could have an extra 4 months with that person. Trust me. You will cheer plenty. Remember, in cancer research is small steps.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Valerie

    I have been fighting cancer for several years and am taking experimental drugs now. They have given me a year cancer free so far. God has been very good to me as I have few side effects and much hope. Though the average may be 4 months, some will likely see several years....years during which new treatments, maybe cures will be found. Hope comes in small doses sometimes.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shawnswidow

      Hope DOES come in small doses. Very happy for you! May you be "dosed" with many more years!

      March 25, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • Veglvr

      LOL! "God" LOL!

      March 27, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
  5. Shawnswidow

    To the brave souls who took part in the trials, to those on it and to those whose lives had 4 more months, THANK YOU! It takes courage to try an unproven treatment! Thank you Thank you Thank you! And to the years of research and perseverance, thank you researchers! To the physicians who stay on top of trials, Thank you! Bristol-Meyers Squibb, thanks for your work too. I hope we can get rid of this all together someday or at least make it a manageable chronic annoyance instead of an evil, black beast.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ian

    Nice to see the FDA has a clue. There's an approved therapy for late stage melanoma that's been on the market for over 25 years that not only can extend life, but it can offer a chance for an actual cure. There are patients who have taken this therapy 15 years ago or more and are still alive and cancer free. And I'm not talking about some quack, gotta go to Mexico to take it therapy. This is an FDA approved drug that's adminstered routinely in the US!

    Not sure how Richard Pazdur, the director of Oncology Drug Products for the FDA, isn't aware of IL-2.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jrm

      My husband had IL-2 for metastatic kidney cancer. It gave him some extra time, but is something not everyone can tolerate.

      March 25, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      How long ago did he take the IL-2? They've gotten much more capable at managing the side effects today and it really is something most people can and should look into if they have late stage melanoma. It's also best if you do it as a first line therapy, since your body is much stronger and can take it more successfully.

      March 25, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse |
  7. A, A, A and P

    We too lost our Dad to melanoma sixteen years ago. I hope this spares another generation of kids who don't have to live life without their darling Dad, Mom or other precious person.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

    BRAVO, Bristol-Meyers-Squibb. ANY advance in the treatment of cancer is a GIANT step for mankind against this dread disease. Keep up the good work!

    March 25, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Clarence Bass

    I have stage IV Melanoma detected in January 2003. After five other chemotherapys that failed, I have been a trial patient for ipilimumab since June 2008 at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. By the grace of God and ipilimumab treatements, I am still around to enjoy my family and have a hope for tommorow. I pray that this drug will be useful in other cancer treatments as it has in mine.

    March 25, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jessica

    My favorite singer, Eva Cassidy, died of melanoma at the age of 33. I'm so glad that there is a new drug that will help fight this disease.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. theawfultruth

    What it the cost of a dose of this drug? The press never reports this type of thing and they should. The cost of some of these "miracle" drugs can range upwards from $10,000/month. And for only 20% effectiveness and only a few extra months. Big pharma makes billions off the misfortunes of others. In many cases the underlying research is based on taxpayer funded research.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Biologist13

      "In many cases the underlying research is based on taxpayer funded research." It costs on average over 1 billion dollars to take a drug from discovery research to product. the companies might learn things from NIH research but pharma drug development is not funded by taxpayers.. not to say that Pharma doesn't milk every last penny out of us they can.... but drugs can not be developed in this country without big profit to fund it... you must be in the tea party... trashing things you don't understand based on erroneous assumptions....

      March 25, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      The awful truth is that you have NO CLUE what you're talking about. The fact that the illogic inherent in your statements don't occur to you basically says it all. If the drug wasn't $10,000 a dose IT WOULDN'T EXIST! No one would develop it if there was no profit in it and it costs BILLIONS of dollars to take a drug all the way through clinicals and get it approved for use.

      Moron ... people like you do so much harm with your misinformation and empty rhetoric. I really wish people like you would THINK before you speak or at least take time to educate yourselves on the facts. Also, your entire argument is pointless since almost all insurance carriers will cover these treatments. SHUT UP!

      March 25, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
    • a few more facts...

      What's scary is that this "one billion" mark is given to us from the drug companies without any details on how this money is spent. No one really knows if it's true. And here's something to think about... drug companies spend a WAY higher percentage of this cost on marketing than they do on R&D. Estimates are that about 20% is spent on R&D while 30% is spent on marketing. And since this is the only drug that works this well, they are free to gouge consumers as much as they want. What you have here is essentially a modern day monopoly.

      March 26, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
  12. Trevor

    My Dad died last week from melanoma. This disease is ruthless and at times can be prevented or detected early. Although, my Dad had an unknown primary site many other deaths could be prevented by simply seeing your dermatologist on a regular basis and obviously limiting your sun exposure. Although I am eager to read the clinical trials and specifically the value versus their "control / melanoma vaccine" it is a start. Although new meds generally have a high cost, we must also remember the cost of invasive treatment. Try $76,000 total bill for a my Dad's gamma knife operation, including hospital costs. When you are given 3 months to live, even a little hope can go a long way.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nathan

      Trevor, I'm sorry to hear of your loss. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my father's death from melanoma, 3/26/'05. I still miss him terribly and though the shock and intense grief that you are now experiencing has passed from me over the years, I still feel a deep sense of loss and grief. I hope you have family nearby or friends that you consider family, and someone like an understanding pastor to go to for counsel. I found some comfort and help in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-your-After-Your-Parent/dp/0877936943. Grace and Peace.

      March 25, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      I'm sorry for your loss and that your family had to go through this. I am a melanoma survivor and worry every day that the cancer will return. This drug is a small step, but brings hope for future advances in fighting this disease.

      March 25, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      My heart goes out to you too Trevor. My husband now is suffering from stage 4 metastatic melenoma with no primary site and has done all the treatments that we could afford or the insurance would pay for. Unfortunatly the "Ipi" as they like to call it did not work for him just caused him horrible side effects but I still believe this is an awesome drug, it was just too late for him as his health is so bad at this point. I do belive this would be great if it could be given earlier in the stage 1,2, or 3 it will be wonderful. Keep strong Trevor and know your father will always be with you

      March 26, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse |
  13. Fiona

    With just a 20% response rate, it's not a "good solid base hit" but a Hail Mary play.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. richandricher

    sounds like a good way for the pharms. to milk the rest of what money you have left before you die.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      No one is forcing anyone to be treated. You can't enjoy your money if you are not alive.

      March 25, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
  15. at school

    at least we are finnaly doing stuff to help prevent cancer

    March 25, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dave

    This is how my dad died just a few years ago. I hope this saves someone else's dad.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Stephanie

    My dad died in 2007 from this I would have given anything for 4 more months with him. He to was at the center in Tampa fl what a diff. A year makes with drugs being offered. Hope this drug helps many people!!!!! 27 was to young to young to loose my dad 😦

    March 25, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. optimist

    To those of you who say the pharms are trying to get richer and that the drug will only prolong 20% of those lives so there is still a long way to go, you must not have gone through what my family has and a nation of other famlies have. I have a father who has stage 4 melanoma. I have gone through several surgeries with him, and have watched one of the strongest men I will ever meet have to be taken care of like a 5 year old at times. When you are the child and have to help take care of the parent and watch them struggle to talk or to breath and to have to tell you what needs to be done if they do not make it out of this next surgery, this drug to me and to my family is what we have been looking for. This may be the one thing that will allow my father to see his grandchildren grow up and play in sports and graduate highschool instead of them hoping that they will just make it to their next birthday. So please let those of us who are optomistic about this fantastik news be happy for what it may do for our families and those that we love who have to battle this awful disease every day.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • techmom5

      Thank you, we need more optimists – My family, friends and I are right there with you. I have been fighting melanoma since 2002. It was in 3 lymph nodes in my neck, surgically removed. 3 years later it showed up on my liver. Then almost 3 years later again it showed up on my liver. This past summer, 2 years later, it came back to my liver. Each time it was surgically removed. I have been on a few different protocols, Interferon, Temodar with Thalmid, a Vaccine trial program and a chemo program. This time it came back to my liver in 5 months. We are truly hoping this will do more than extend my life and the lives of others 4 months. Wishing your father well and success with the Ipi. Keep being an Optimist.

      March 26, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
  19. Richard Braley

    Currently 66 years old: I had (have, maybe still do) advanced stage melanoma and advanced stage prostate cancer both diagnosed and treated in 2006-7. Melanoma terated with high dose Interferon IV and 11+ months of self injections. Prostate treatment after melanoma regimen completed: radio active iodine seeds implanted and radiation treatments. Still kicking andfighting. Still working and only missed a few days of work after surgery to remove 41 lymph nodes in my neck, one of which was hot. Nerves were cut, to access nodes. Now have lost sensation on left side of neck. Continue to have pain from cut nerves ... taking vicodin and now oxycodone trying to cut back. Never, never, never ever give up.

    I also was heavily exposed to Agent Orange 1968 Vietnam. Sprayed on, walked through and slept in areas sprayed. Am now just getting my Marine Corps records lined up, so I can go to the V.A.to check on possible disability claims.

    Semper Fi-

    to all those suffering love to you!

    March 25, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mike

    When scoffing at the 4-month figure, remember that new drug approval trials in life-threatening diseases are conducted in patients with no other treatment options. Now that it's been approved, it will be used in patients with earlier stages of the disease and the median survival times should be significantly longer. This is a big deal, there are very few treatment options for metastatic melanoma.

    March 25, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Luis

    Of course it will b expensive, because people will pay anything to extend their lives, and drug companies know this. Private drug companies are the scourge of modern healthcare

    March 25, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred

      Your ignorance is terrifying. Let me ask you a very simple question, moron. Would we have any drugs? Any therapies at all, if it wasn't for "modern pharma"?? No. We'd all still be treating each other with leeches and snake oil.

      Do yourself a favor and educate yourself before you talk. It will make people respect you a lot more ... although I suspect in your case it's just sheer stupidity. You've been reading to much mainstream media, I'd guess. "Those bad, evil corporations. How dare they want to make money!! Nevermind that they're responsible for every significant medical breakthrough known to man over the last 50 years ... don't let that small, insigificant fact bother you. I'm so sick and tired of the ignorant blaming the capable for their own lot in life. Tell you what ... when you get melanoma, don't take this drug. The world will be a better place.

      March 25, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
  22. Linda Mercurio

    I lost my niece to melanoma this past November 2010. Jenna was only 20. Jenna was diagnosed with this horrible disease at the age of 14. I miss her every day and our family was grateful every time a new drug was invented to give her more time. Even a few months means alot to any family who has a loved one struggling with Melanoma. Rest in peace my dear sweet niece Jenna. I'm praying for a cure,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    March 25, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lovemylittleones

      I am so sry for your loss. can't imagine the pain your family feels. I am going home, kissing my daughters and praying for you family. (i am not religious but you story touched me very much)

      March 25, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
  23. Becky

    My father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma in January 09. Multiple brain tumors, tumors popping up just under his skin on his back and on his ear, lung tumors and mass on his adrenal glands. Started with a rogue mole on his back 5 years prior. Treatments included sugeries, radiation, and one round of chemo. Watched a strong man reduced to a child. In November was basically told nothing else can be done, so we tried Ipilumamaub. Dad's treatments started with body and brain scans for comparison, then every 3 weeks got IPI, for 12 weeks. His major side effect, other than weakness, was incredible ITCHING, but somewhat controlled by hydroxyzine and OTC skin creams. After treatment, got more scans- mass in adrenals shrunk by half, lung tumors undetectable, no new lesions in brain and old lesions continue to die off. Now he is off all treatment (just goes in for check-upsand blood work) for another 12 weeks, at which time we will do more scans to see if more treatment is necessary. Looks like 12 weeks on, 12 weeks off. He is one of the few "responders" for which I am very thankful.

    March 25, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dan Labyak

    Lost my father to Melanoma in 2009. Awful disease, to say the least. So grateful for the new drug and to CNN for putting on main page story...Melanoma lacks public awareness and needs more attention given the awful mortality rates. Great resource is the work Tim Turnham and Melanoma Research Foundation are doing....spread the word...look for events near you and ways to help....Praying for a cure...

    March 25, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. theresa

    My niece was diagnosed at 16 and they removed the tumor. Then exactly 5 years later, it came back full-force and she died at age 21. What a beautiful girl and lose of life that should've been prevented. Where was the drug then?

    March 25, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Dr John

    We must put our resources into other treatment areas. Drugs have not improved mortality rates much for most cancer. The problem is the drug companies are the ones that have the money & power to produce the studies and the long approval process. We need to be looking more at stem cells, DNA and cellular/genomic treatments.

    March 25, 2011 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Dr John

    I am happy they are finding drugs/treatments to stimulate immune responce though, chemotherapy is so harsh on patients.

    March 25, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Gary

    My mother passed away Dec 2010 from stage 4 melanoma and was waiting for this drug to be approved. Glad it's here and hope it can help others.

    March 25, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. The Skin Cancer Foundation

    This is a very exciting time in the field of melanoma. As melanoma incidence continues to rise, we are hopeful that this new therapy will extend life and improve the quality of life for patients with metastatic melanoma. Learn more about Yervoy (ipilimumab) on The Skin Cancer Foundation website at http://www.skincancer.org/melanoma

    March 25, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Puddinnpie

    My husband died 3 years ago at the age of 27 from Melanoma. The only thing he wanted was more time. He kept telling me that he was not ready to die. I wish this drug would have been around at this point. Everything they had for him at that time (IL-2, Interferon, Vaccines, clinical trials), seemed to make him sicker. We have a long way to go in this fight against this disgusting disease, but I will take 4 more months with the one I love any day. I hope we can continue progress with these drugs and biological treatments and someday obliterate this disease. If you are going through Melanoma treatment, or have a loved one who is, please stay strong and know that you are not alone.

    March 25, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Rod

    I was diagnosed with stage 4 malanoma 27 mths ago and I have had half of my left lung removed and 5 other sugeries to remove my lymph nodes.When I was first diagnosed the Dr's told me I had about 6 mths maybe a yearto live.They also said that chemo would not help and the only known drug that was only experimental was interferon and the side effects would make me sick for the entire year that I would be on it.I chose not to take interferon because I felt that whatever life I have left I want to be able to enjoy it with my kids and grandchildren.If there is anyone else out there that may have melanoma with no treatment I would appreciate any info on how you are doing and how long you have had it

    March 25, 2011 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doug

      Rod: I've been stage four melanoma since 2007,and was on Interferon for seven months, and stopped due to panic attacks were real bad for for the last two months. I tryed three chemo pills, and stopped due to side affects were real bad. My cancer doc says I am playing with a loaded gun by not doing any treatment. I am lucky my last scan was neg, I was given 5 yr and I'm not sure why I am still here. Very healthy otherwise. Oh I got a mole on my rear end from years of using a tanning bed. I hate the two lung surgerys and a small bowel resection. I am so tried of it all. I am not on anything and I'm not sure why I dont have fifty spots showing up like my cancer doc says can happen anytime. I live from three months to three months for my pet scans and it kind of hard to make any future plans knowing this can get me anytime. I am very happy this new drug is here, and I hope my cancer doc will let me try it sometime. melanoma sucks I hate it. I am 58.

      March 25, 2011 at 23:18 | Report abuse |
    • Dolores in CT

      I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma in July 2008. I was offered interferon after my first 3 surgeries. However after a long talk with my doctors they all agreed that interferon offers very little (if any) benefit for this horrible disease, and the side effects are usually dibilitataing.
      I've had 4 additional surgeries since – recurrance in the same region and lymph node bundles removed. Whatever time I have, I want to feel as 'well' as possible to enjoy my family.
      God Bless and be strong!

      May 13, 2011 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
  32. Cancer Survivor

    I am a cancer survivor like many of you who have posted. I am also a health care provider who has worked in a well known academic medical center in oncology. Don't take away a person's hope when hope is all they might have.

    March 25, 2011 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Enough is Enough

    HOW ABOUT A F–KING CURE?
    Zillions raised in the name of cancer research for decades and in 2011 THIS is the best we can do?
    (and only 20% of those in need would benefit?) Gimme a break.
    Oh I get it. A cured patient is no longer a cash cow, I mean .. a big pharma customer.
    The world needs to wake up en masse and demand much MUCH more.

    March 25, 2011 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Steve

    A drug to boost your immune system...HMMM......How about regular exercise, eat fruits and veggies every meal, get your omega 3's and Vit D, AVOID grains, sugars, dairy and processed foods. These are lifestyle choices proven to boost immunity and reduce cancer drastically but you never hear mention of this. People want to live their garbage lifestyles then blame genetics or the sun and hope for some pill to fix their life of bad choices. Protect yourself from the sun by rubbing sunscreen full of cancer causing chemicals all over your body and also blocking your ability to get Vit D...that makes sense....
    97% of people get cancer because of their own choices.....it is time for us to take responsibility for our actions! Quit wasting money on cancer foundations which have made no progress in 30 years and start spending it on your own health!

    March 26, 2011 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rob

      what a load of garbage. you show a total lack of knowledge and empathy. my wife is a vegan, never smoked no alcohol. very health conscious. diagnosed with a high grade brain tumor a few months ago. so where was the garbage lifestyle? and your comment on cancer foundations shows true ignorance. combo of drugs, radiation and surgery at least will give us probably an extra year together. if not for that she would have been dead already. so please stop displaying your ignorance and arrogance.

      March 26, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
    • Sailing

      Steve, blaming the victim of cancer is cruel. Anyone, including you, could be diagnosed with cancer at any time, and you know that. And are you serious, you don't even eat brown rice? What is left? I'm all for fruits, vegetables, organic eggs, organic nuts, and fish, but most people will feel very hungry eating like that and need some whole grains. Please try to find empathy instead of being so afraid of cancer that you convince yourself you lead a perfect lifestyle but everyone else who ends up with cancer doesn't. Also, please learn to "live a little." It is okay to eat your favorite cookie once in awhile. I promise!

      March 26, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      It's not ignorance or arrogance...it's the truth. I said about 97% of cancer is from lifestyle.....3% of people who get it are just unlucky. I'm sorry for that 3%. Who says a vegan diet is healthy?? I promise you it isn't. Anyone who chooses vegan is not doing it because of health....it's a moral issue. Humans are meant to eat meat.....not eating meat is foolish. Most vegetarians are grainetarians and very unhealthy. I've even seen morons putting their dogs on vegan diets. Every patient that I've had who was had a family member with cancer regrets the chemo treatment. That stuff will kill you before the cancer does.
      Never said I don't live a little bit....gonna drink too much tonight actually 🙂 I do eat grains on occasion...usually quinoa...but try to limit it as much as possible. To say people are hungry without grains is foolish. I'm not and neither are the many patients I've helped switch their lifestyle to what I recommend. Sadly bad things happen to good people....I just wish there would be some articles talking about lifestyle and its role in cancer.
      Lets just look at the facts....spending on cancer treatments has increased exponentially.....spending on research has been increasing exponencially.....and what are cancer rates doing? Increasing! We need to look at our lifestyle...not genetics or drugs. Again....I'm sorry for the very few where it is bad luck....bad things happen to good people sometimes.

      let the name calling and anger begin!! The truth does hurt

      March 26, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse |
  35. Sal

    They say that this new drug would be very expensive. How about reducing some of the profits that these drug companies make. We all know they make obscene profits with their drugs even considering what they spend on research and development When it comes to life and death drug company profits should not become the issue! .

    March 26, 2011 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Kelcy

    Another case of how we look at health care and drug costs in a surreal fashion. 20% respond and get an extra 4 months. They don`t respond and live for 5 years. They still die. They just die 4 months later. This does nothing for us collectively and almost nothing for those that respond. Someone is paying the bill for this (which the company says they will charge $120K for a course of treatment). It makes zero economic sense.

    And don`t jump all over me about how I don`t know. My dad died of lung cancer. In stage four the doctor offered an expensive treatment option that as he was in a panic about dying at that point (it came on very sudden) he jumped on the "20% respond....doctor never said you will still die). Medicare paid the cost. It was ludicrous because he had zero chance of surviving the cancer at that point. People made money off of his dying and someone else paid for it. Had he/we been paying for it directly I know my father would have said no. He couldn`t have afforded tossing $30K out the window for zero effect. He wasn`t that type of person.

    How many of us would be able to afford to spend $30K per month for those 4 months? I know I can`t. I know someone will say but this is how we advance medicine. And my response to that then these people are test subjects for this drug company to advance their trade in order to find a cure. If that is the case then the medicine should be free to them as test subjects. When they get 75% of people responding and it gives them an extra 5 years of life then come talk to me about charging "Us" $120K for a course of treatment. Because we most certainly pay for the costs of all this "barely do anything" treatments via the premiums that are jumping at 20-30% a year (on the low end).

    Now science has advanced to the point of some cancer treatments making them more like chronic conditions up until the last year. Geraldine Ferraro died of multiple melanoma today. Caught early it was a treatable, chronic condition for 12 years.

    This particular story highlights what is wrong with American health care. And it doesn`t help that we Americans have the mind set that somehow dying is giving up and that so long as it is someone elses money then it doesn`t matter how much it costs to get to that end point. Of course, if you are poor, without health care insurance then this is all a moot discussion since it is unlikely you would get much in the way of treatment to begin with.

    March 26, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Cindy

    @Casey, if you have not, please contact the Melanoma Research Foundation and/or MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX. My daughter's best friend (only 20) was able to find clinical trails through these 2 organizations. Unfortunately we lost her, but there is much to be looked at. It is a devistating disease. She fought for 6 years with stage 4 disease thanks to clinical trails she was in. Her family was tenacious in looking for answers. I believe her mother probably knows more about melanoma then most providers. This is a horrible disease, any help is good.

    March 26, 2011 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Sailing

    I wish they would have included information about recognizing skin cancer in its early stages. I've heard of so many people having skin cancer that does not look like the typical photograph. We need more detailed information, and dermatologists shouldn't rush through the exam, as has been my experience. How do you even know if you have an early melanoma?
    Best of luck to all of you searching for a treatment or cure. I hope this medication helps as many people as possible.

    March 26, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. whydomy

    DCA already _cures_ melanoma. Oh but wait, no one can make any money from it. Ohhh.... so I guess you can get in the US. Isn't it great how your FDA looks out for you...

    March 26, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • techmom5

      I am a Stage 4 fighter. I have been fighting for 9 years. I am on Ipi now and really hoping and praying that it will do more then extend my life by 4 months, What a scary thing to put in print. What is DCA that you referred to?

      March 26, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse |
  40. Debbie

    My husband has stage 4 melanoma and has had radiation, IL2, numerous surgies the lates Feb 3, and numerous trial drugs. Doc's called Monday and the cancer has returned. They are giving us very little much hope but certainly am going to try this drug. Alittle more time is better than none at all. He is so depressed and cries now all the time. So hard to watch someone you love go thru such a horrible ordeal.

    March 26, 2011 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      Please read my post. I think it might help your husband. "My Mom had melanoma decades ago and she survived it by changing her diet and being healthier. Don't eat salt or animal fat. Drink water and eat tons of organic fruits and veggies. Also, make your juicer your new best friend. Your body will naturally start to fight off the cancer. This will work for almost any illness. People don't realize that feeding our bodies the proper food can make a HUGE difference."

      March 27, 2011 at 07:24 | Report abuse |
  41. Amy

    My Mom had melanoma decades ago and she survived it by changing her diet and being healthier. Don't eat salt or animal fat. Drink water and eat tons of organic fruits and veggies. Also, make your juicer your new best friend. Your body will naturally start to fight off the cancer. This will work for almost any illness. People don't realize that feeding our bodies the proper food can make a HUGE difference.

    March 27, 2011 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Patricia

    This is the way to go in treating cancer – many types. Empower the patients immune system. Our bodies know which cells are bad – we need to help our immune system kill those rogue cells.
    I am not a scientist but I have blood cancer and the way I am treating it is by boosting my immune system with interferon.
    Very happy to see a trend in this direction!

    March 27, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. John

    The next flavor of the month, year ? ..I've been hearing this the last 30 years..No cure for cancer ...

    March 28, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. John

    Next flavor of the month, year ? ?..I've been hearing this crap the last 30 years..The last wonder drug (for cancer) is always better the the one before..Sure, right ..The treatment is always worse than the desease...

    March 28, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Steve

    President Nixon in 1971 called for a war against cancer and said it’s “cure” would be found by 1976.1 Fast forward four decades and the 40 year war against cancer still has us buried in the trenches. The elusive cure has been evading our grasp despite the billions of dollars either spent or donated to research this disease.

    The American Cancer Society on World Cancer Day introduced the new cancer statistics for the world in 2008. It is no surprise that cancer rates are ever increasing. According to the report, an estimated 12.6 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2008, and 7.6 million people died from cancer.2

    A majority of these cases occurred not in the poor areas of the world, but in economically developing countries where people are beginning or have adopted more of an American lifestyle which includes a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and a poor diet. Researchers indicated that one third of the deaths could have been prevented by simple measures such as people quitting smoking, drinking less, eating better, exercising more and reducing infection risk.3 By 2030, cancer rates are expected to increase by 100 percent due to worsening lifestyle choices and an aging population.4

    The CDC reports that, like Americans with cancer, the number of Americans with diabetes is continuing to rise. The number of people with diabetes could triple by 2050. One in ten adults in America has diabetes and that number could be 1 in 3 in the next 40 years. Diabetes is a disease that can destroy any part of the body.

    We’re doctors of the nervous system and since the nervous system controls all health and healing, we’re concerned with any disease or condition that affects it. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage.

    Prevention: Lifestyle vs. Drugs

    In a study performed by the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a large prevention study of people at high risk for diabetes showed that lifestyle intervention to lose weight and increase physical activity reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent during a 3-year period. Among adults, aged 60 and older, the reduction was even greater, at 71 percent. Treatment with the drug Metformin, one of the most commonly prescribed diabetes drugs, reduced the risk by 31 percent overall. Clear as day, the lifestyle changes are not only cheaper but by far much more effective! Also, lifestyle changes do not carry excess baggage such as the side effects that drugs carry.

    What is the solution? Is it to keep pouring more money into cancer and diabetes research to find a new drug cure? We’ve been doing that unsuccessfully now for 40 plus years. Invest in good health and you radically limit the possibility of any disease. Pouring money into research for cures will never have as profitable return as an investment in Maximized Living.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. optimist

    Can all of the negativity PLEASE STOP!!!!! There are a lot of us on here that are finding HOPE in this new drug. I showed this to my father and saw a look of HOPE in his eyes that I have not seen before. He is heading to MD Anderson which is where he goes every 90 days next week to see if we can have a sense of ease for the next 90 days that a tumor has not returned. To all of you out there who are bashing this news and blaming the terminally ill for their own disease, GET A LIFE while the rest of us find hope and peace. You should be ashamed of yourselves for diminishing the hope of so many by your petty beliefs. As you learned in your wee young ages, if you do not have anything nice to say than do not say anything at all. Too all of you survivors and hopefuls out there, continue to be optomistic for a cure like I am!!!!!

    March 28, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Skip a beat

    This is heart wrenching. To see that soooooo many people are out there waiting for someone to tell them they have a way to give them a few more months. This is so sad. This article has created more posts than ANY other article on cnn. What does that say? That we need to find a way to keep our people alive. Thats what it says.

    God bless all who are suffering.

    March 28, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Scott

    I was just told I will be taking this new drug (about 20 minutes ago) Does anyone know what a single treatment costs? How bad are the side effects?

    April 26, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Linda

    I am a stage 3 Melanoma survivor....Was diagnosed when I was 20 and I'm 45....Miracles DO happen and there were very few treatments back then. It takes time for research and with prayer and modern medicine we will find a cure. Until then LOVE those who are suffering and enjoy every minute....<3

    May 5, 2011 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Skin Cancer Stinks

    Drugs like this can be a tremendous benefit for those with advanced stage disease – I hope, for all of our sakes, that these drugs are effective at battling this terrible disease.

    It's interesting, I was at a meeting of the Melanoma Research Alliance and heard a renowned physician report that while many other cancers had genetic pathways that could be shut down; melanoma had far too many pathways that the cancer could take to mutate and metastasize. Early detection is the real hope for this disease. Catch it early, survival rates are nearly 100%. Catch it at stage 4; and it's all but lights out. I don't mean to sound callous – those are the facts.

    While a biopsy may not be a huge medical procedure, there are chances for missing the disease due to something called sampling error. Additionally, for those with numerous moles or a family or personal history of melanoma, physicians always defer to the "when in doubt, cut it out" methodology – and with good reason. Never before have devices and imaging technology existed that allowed physicians to see the cells within the skin – a sample always had to be removed (not unlike exploratory surgery before the advent of MRi and CT). New diagnostic devices can make a big difference in how the disease gets managed along with the follow up treatment. There are other devices out there that already have FDA approval for the diagnosis of skin cancer, one of these allows the physician to see the cells inside the skin without the need to reach for the scalpel (www.lucid-tech.com).

    August 24, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.