Monday, March 28, 2011

A new drug named Yervoy has been developed in the U.S. to prolong the lives of people with the skin cancer melanoma, according to media reports Monday.

Developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Yervoy is in a new class of drugs designed to fight cancer by removing molecular brakes that prevent immune system cells from destroying tumors.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Yervoy is hailed by experts as the first drug in the melanoma field that could extend survival in a meaningful way.

The effect of the drug was shown in a randomized clinical trial involved metastatic melanoma patients who had already failed to benefit from treatment with another drug.

After treated with Yervoy, they were found to live a median of about 10 months, 3.6 months longer than a control group who received an ineffective treatment. More than 20 percent of the people with Yervoy treatment lived at least two years, and some of them even longer.

According to Bristol's announcement Monday, Yervoy also improves the survival of previously untreated patients with metastatic melanoma.

A complete course of the treatment consists of four infusions given over three months and costs 120,000 U.S. dollars.

Drug researchers noted Yervoy is not specific for any type of tumor, that it might conceivably be effective for many types.

However, Yervoy's function of loosening the restraints on the immune system may lead to dangerous side effects such as colitis, diarrhea, hepatitis, endocrine dysfunction and skin problems. Its negative effects have already been discovered in 12.9 percent of the patients who participated in the clinical trial.

Melanoma is the fourth most common form of cancer. When detected early, it is a mole on the skin and can be surgically removed. But it is very difficult to treat once it has metastasized or spread.


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