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Monday 24th October 2016

Advanced melanoma drug hope

2nd June 2009

Cancer experts in the United States have heard about a new drug that may be able to treat a severe form of skin cancer in its later stages.


Researchers at Roche and Plexxikon presented an experimental drug, PLX4032 (R7204), which early trial results say could help patients with melanoma live longer by controlling its progression, to the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Florida.

Only 5% of advanced melanoma patients live longer than two years, once the cancer has begun to spread around the body.

Sun exposure is one of the biggest risk factors for melanoma, which is hard to treat in its advanced stages, and experts warned people to take care in the sun.

According to researchers, PLX4032 seeks out and destroys tumour cells carrying the BRAF mutation which is seen in 60% malignant melanomas.

A phase I trial involving 16 patients with BRAF-positive melanoma found that the new drug slowed the development and spread of the cancer in more than half of cases in the group taking PLX4032 (R7204).

In addition, this group lived for a median of six months without their disease getting any worse, including patients whose cancer had spread to their bones, liver or lungs.

Partners Roche and Plexxikon say they now plan larger trials for safety and efficacy, and to determine appropriate dosage levels.

A diagnostic test to see which patients have BRAF-positive melanoma is also in the pipeline.

More than 10,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma annually in the United Kingdom alone.

So far, no cures have been found for melanoma in its later stages, although symptoms can be improved with chemotherapy.

Other potential new therapies include vaccines which encourage the body's own immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Experts called for further research to see if the new drug was a viable new therapy.


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