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Skin cancer drug approved early
August 17th, 2011
02:34 PM ET

Skin cancer drug approved early

Many patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer got a new treatment option Wednesday, as the Food and Drug Administration gave its blessing to vemurafenib, sold by Genentech under the brand name Zelboraf. It was approved to treat patients whose tumors have a specific gene mutation known as BRAF (pronounced “bee-RAF), and with advanced disease or whose tumors cannot be removed through surgery.

“It’s good day for melanoma,” says Tim Turnham, president of the Melanoma Research Foundation. “We’ve gotten two new drugs this year, after 13 years of nothing.” The other drug, Yervoy, was approved in March.

About 70,000 patients a year are diagnosed with melanoma, Most cases are caught early, but if disease spreads beyond the original tumor site, the average lifespan is measured in months without treatment.

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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.

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