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Tuesday 18th June 2019

New melanoma drug extends survival

22nd March 2011

A late-stage clinical trial has shown that a new melanoma drug under development by U.S.-based Bristol-Myers Squibb extends the survival of previously untreated patients with advanced melanoma.


The company said in a statement that its drug, ipilimumab, was highly promising.

It said it would reveal how much longer the patients were living after taking it at a conference in June.

The latest Phase III trial compared previously untreated patients who took ipilimumab in combination with chemotherapy with a group that took chemotherapy alone.

Study participants had stage III or stage IV melanoma, the latter being the most advanced form of the disease.

Some reports have suggested that the drug could prolong survival of melanoma patients by two years, compared with chemotherapy alone.

Around 15% of patients were virtually cured, according to financial analysts.

After the news, shares of the company closed 4.3% higher on the New York Stock Exchange, having bounced up by more than 5% immediately after the statement.

Cancer drug trials generally measure their success by the drug's ability to extend overall survival in patients.

The US' drug regulator is expected to approve ipilimumab based on the results of separate trials.

In those trials, the patients had received prior treatment for advanced melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

The new drug was found to extended survival by an average of four months in that study.

Melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers, because it can spread rapidly to the major organs of the body.

Currently, there are no really effective treatments, and a series of attempts to develop melamona drugs have foundered.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will announce its decision on the drug on March 26.

The agency announced in November that it would delay its approval decision so as to review further data on the medicine.

Analysts call ipilimumab an exciting development for the company, given the lack of major competition from other manufacturers.

Advanced melanoma can quickly spread from the skin to internal organs, such as the brain, and patients typically survive for just six to nine months once this happens.

Some estimate that sales of ipilimumab could top US$820 million by 2015.


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