Melanoma Therapy Gets FDA Approval

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared what is believed to be the first drug that can help prolong the life of people suffering from melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

The drug, generically known as ipilimumab with a brand name of Yervoy, works by helping the body’s natural immune system fight the cancer. Clinical trials have shown that Yervoy, which is a type of treatment known as immunotherapy, can extend a melanoma patient’s life by an average of 10 months. Around 20 percent of those given the treatment during the trial reportedly lived at least two years.

Melanoma can be treated by removing the tumor when it is still in its early stage, but becomes almost always incurable once it metastasizes. Chemotherapy and other conventional cancer treatments have proven inadequate to stop metastatic melanoma, making Yervoy a breakthrough in the fight against the disease that kills thousands of people each year. However, the new drug is not for everyone because of its steep price. According to Yervoy manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb, a complete course of the treatment, which is given four times over three months will initially cost $120,000.