Breakthrough new drugs have been found to cure skin cancer. Scientists who presented their findings to the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam on Saturday said the drugs were the “beginning of a new era” and hailed them as having “spectacular” effects in terminally ill melanoma patients.
The new treatment involves two types of drugs, ipilimumab(ipi) and anti-PD1s. Ipilimumab is a new type of drug called a “monoclonal antibody,” an antibody that recognises and attaches to a specific protein found on certain cells. Ipilimumab recognises CTLA-4, a protein on the surface of a kind of immune system cell called T cells. This protein usually slows the activity of T cells, but ipilimumab stops it from doing this. This makes the T cells more prone to attack and kill cancer cells.
According to an article published on the UK’s National Health Service website: “The current study reported that half of patients treated with ipilimumab survived to 11.4 months, about one in five patients lived to three years, with most of these patients going on to live to 10 years.”
It is believed that perhaps half of all patients could be “clinically cured” by combining ipilimumab with another new type of drug called anti-PD1s, which break down the defences of cancer cells and are still in clinical trials.
“[Advanced] melanoma could become a curable disease for perhaps more than 50 per cent of patients within five to 10 years,” Professor Alexander Eggermont of the Institut Gustave Roussy in France told the Mail on Sunday. “If I’d made this bizarre prediction five years ago, people would have said I was mad. But it now looks like we are going to have control of advanced melanoma for years, in a substantial proportion of patients.”
Advanced melanoma is diagnosed when the disease has spread and can no longer be surgically removed. Patients with advanced melanoma usually have low survival rates with few treatment options available. The new treatment brings hope to thousands of people with the disease.
Scientists are conducting trials using the drugs to treat lung and kidney cancer.