New Drug for Melanoma Treatment
“An experimental and unlicensed cancer drug has been fast-tracked to NHS patients under a new government scheme. Pembrolizumab is a treatment for advanced skin cancer and is the first medicine to be approved through the Early Access to Medicines scheme (EAMS), launched in England last April. The idea is to get pioneering drugs to severely ill patients much sooner. Drugs signed off through EAMS have been scrutinised by regulators, weighing the risks and benefits.
A green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) means doctors anywhere in the UK can prescribe the drug in question before normal licensing procedures – which can take years – are complete.”
We have reported the success of this class of drug in clinical trials in previous pages [October 2014]:
Further advances in treatment of advanced melanoma
The new anti PD-1 drugs used to target advanced melanoma are now shown in clinical studies to be better that standard chemotherapy treatments. As reported previously in these pages, the trials underway are now starting to yield results. The drug Nivolumab was reported as showing significant survival benefit when compared with standard chemotherapy agents.
This effect was in patients who had already received some of the other new anti-melanoma drugs that target the cancer genes (anti-bRAF) or the cancer’s ability to inhibit the immune system (anti-CTLA-4).
PD-1 is expressed in high levels by melanoma tumour cells and this molecule causes the immune system to function inadequately and leave tumour cells undamaged. By inhibiting this PD-1 expression, the drug enhances the immune response and allows the immune T-cells to destroy tumour, bringing about a reduction in tumourburdon.
Although early days yet, these new drugs all offer an exciting additional treatment option in the battle against terminal melanoma.
However, the most important factor in the battle against melanoma is for patients to recognise the signs early and act swiftly.
These pages regularly highlight the things to look out for if you are worried about malignant melanoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous of the skin cancers, and these are the things to look out for.
- Rapidly growing or enlarging moles
- Moles that change shape and become irregular or asymmetrical
- Blurring of the borders of a mole
- Changing colour, particularly darkening, or more variations of colour appearing
- Ulceration or bleeding