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New Skin Cancer Treatment Released In UK

August 22, 2011

The first new skin cancer treatment since the 1970s has now gone on sale in Britain, according to a Monday morning article by Telegraph Health Correspondent Martin Beckford.

The drug is known as ipilimumab, and according to the American Cancer Society, it is “a type of immunotherapy known as a monoclonal antibody,” which is definite as “a man-made version of an immune system protein that fits like a lock and key with a certain protein in the body.”

“Ipilimumab is designed to seek out and lock onto CTLA-4, a protein that normally helps keep immune system cells called T cells in check,” the organization’s website adds. “By blocking the action of CTLA-4, ipilimumab is thought to boost the immune response against melanoma cells in the body.”

Beckford reports that half of all patients who used the drug during trials were still alive one year later–twice as many as those who did not take the medication, which is injected four times and coaxes the body’s own immune system to combat melanomas.

Ipilimumab have been approved by the European Medicines Agency, but the Telegraph notes that the drug’s effectiveness and its per-dollar value are still being determined by British health rationing officials. That means that the new treatment is not yet “widely available,” Beckford says.

“Patients can apply to the Government´s flagship Cancer Drugs Fund to receive the drug, marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb as Yervoy, which will cost about £75,000 (over $123,500) for the required four infusions,” the health correspondent added.

Nonetheless, its release in the UK was met with applause by medical experts.

“The authorization of ipilimumab represents a real advance in the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma as this is the first treatment for 30 years in the UK to extend patients’ life expectancy,” Dr Paul Lorigan, Senior Lecturer in Medical Oncology at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, told Beckford. “After years of no progress in the treatment of this terrible illness, we have now made a stride forward.”

“A diagnosis of metastatic melanoma is devastating news for anyone to receive. We have long awaited the arrival of new effective treatment options, which makes today´s news very welcome,” added Richard Clifford of the Karen Clifford Skin Cancer Charity (SKCIN).

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