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Ipilimumab: Therapy for Melanoma

Updated on March 26, 2011

It is an odd sounding English word, usually requiring a second take, but, it is a new therapy treatment that dramatically kills deadly melanoma. The FDA recently approved the drug, renamed, Yervoy. It will be one of the most costly treatments at $120K for four infusions over three months time. In a 676 person test, half of the patients with melanoma were treated and were alive after one year. This is compared to only 25% of the patients using existing methods. After two years of treatment, 20% were still alive, compared to 14%.

Ipilimumab works by enlisting the body's own immune system to attack the cancer cells. While it is good at prolonging life in patients with metastic cancer, the therapy was ineffective in removing the tumor. Thus, the tumor still needs to be removed or destroyed by radiation.

Melanoma afflicted 68,000+ last year and of those, 8700 died from it. If it is caught early, the cancer can be destroyed, however, once it spreads, few treatments are very effective. This new drug is simply another weapon to use against it.


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