ABC World News: FDA Approved Mestastic Melanoma Cancer Drug, Zelboraf

Medical TreatmentsAug 17, 2011 – ABC World News with Diane Sawyer reported that a new drug being called a “Huge Step Forward” was just approved by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma, the deadly skin cancer which is growing faster than any other cancer in America.  More than 70,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year with about 8,800 deaths.  ABC’s Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, reports on a cancer patient, Susan,  whose remarkable treatment results allowed herself to recapture hope.

Susan has been battling metastatic melanoma for the past six years with five clinical trials and a 6 to15 percent chance of surviving.  Then she tried a new drug called Zelboraf, a cutting edge therapy.  It goes after a specific genetic mutation in a tumor.  The drug attaches itself to the mutant protein and simply kills the cancerous cell.

Susan says she realized on day seven after taking the treatment that her subcutaneous tumors, the tumors that were poking out of her skin, were substantially shrinking in size.  In one month on the drug her tumors shrunk 40%, in eight-months 70%.

The ABC report says this is exciting news because melanoma is one of the most deadliest forms of cancers and patients usually live only nine months.

Dr. Paul Chapman, Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering says this is the first pill you can take that will shrink your melanoma and we know will lead to living longer than you normally would.

ABC’s Dr. Besser showed a PET Scan where you could see a patient’s tumors that practically melted away in just two weeks.

Unfortunately, everyone is not a candidate for this drug.  Dr. Besser explained that the drug Zelboraf only helped half of the patients with melanoma.  Dr. Chapman said the drug only kills cells that are dependant a specific mutation.  Which was fortunate in Susan’s case because her cancer cells had the right type of mutation.

Dr. Besser said that because the results were so promising the clinical trial for this drug was stopped early.  Researchers now need more follow-up time to let us know about long-term survival.

What are the chances that this treatment will work for other cancers?  The interesting thing is that the specific mutation is seen in a number of thyroid cancers and certain leukemias, so with more research there is hope.

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