Experimental Drugs Offer New Hope for Patients Fighting Melanoma

ABC News
Beyond The Headline

Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer and it is responsible for the deaths of roughly 9,500 people in the United States each year. Though Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of all diagnosed skin cancer cases, it is the greatest contributor to the majority of skin cancer related deaths.

Now, a new experimental drug called nivolumab is providing new hope to patients who have been diagnosed with advanced melanoma.

Researchers say the drug uses the body’s immune system to target and fight cancer cells and has helped some patients with advanced melanoma keep their cancer in check over a period of many years. Some even saw a reduction in their tumor masses during the clinical trial.

Here’s how the drugs work. Melanoma is hard to fight because it can turn off the body’s ability to attack the cancerous cells and these new drugs keep your immune cells active – so as the tumor adds new cells, the immune system is able to remove them.

While clinical trials have been promising, researchers point out that the drugs are not a cure. Though studies have shown they do increase short-term survival.

Doctors still maintain that the best course of action is catching melanoma early. Be on the lookout for any new spots that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, and are larger than a pencil eraser.