Skin cancer treatments double life expectancy

Woman cancer image

Trials focusing on advanced skin cancer provide “exciting” results

Two international trials studying potential new skin cancer treatments have yielded promising results, giving 69% of patients an additional year to live. The usual survival rate is approximately six months.

The treatments, combating advanced melanoma, are designed to enable the immune system to recognise and target tumours, using the experimental drugs pembrolizumab and nivolumab to block the biological pathway cancers use to disguise themselves from the immune system.

Fighting skin cancer

The trials of 411 people proved that in 69% of cases, pembrolizumab enabled patients to live on for another year. The drug is now being tested against other tumour types.

The second drug testes – nivolumab- was used in combination with an existing licensed immunotherapy, ipilimumab. This study of 53 people revealed that survival was 85% after one year, and 79% after two years.

John Wagstaff, Prof of medical oncology at Swansea College of Medicine, told BBC News “I am convinced that this is a breakthrough in treating melanoma. The trial is still “blinded” so we don’t know what treatments the patients are getting, but we have seen some spectacular responses.”

This research has been based on Phase I trials, however more in-depth Phase III trials are now in place across many UK hospitals to further investigate the benefits of these potential new treatments.