By Perry Robins, MD, President
2011 has been an extraordinary year for melanoma treatments, with the introduction of not one but two new life-extending melanoma drugs. In March, as reported in the Spring 2011 issue of Sun & Skin News, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved YervoyTM (ipilimumab), the first new melanoma drug in 13 years. The availability of any new treatment for melanoma, which will cause an estimated 8,790 deaths in the US this year alone, is exciting. But YervoyTM has garnered particular enthusiasm: it is the first therapy proven to extend overall survival for patients with advanced disease. Many patients treated with YervoyTM may have a two-year survival advantage, and a smaller percentage may be virtually cured.
In August, the FDA announced that another new melanoma drug had been approved. Like YervoyTM, ZelborafTM (a.k.a. vemurafenib, or PLX 4032) represents an important breakthrough. The first targeted genetic therapy for melanoma approved to date, ZelborafTM holds promise for patients whose tumors contain a specific gene mutation (defect) present in about 40-60 percent of melanomas. This issue of Sun & Skin News discusses the innovative treatment.
While these treatments give us cause for great optimism, skin cancer is still an epidemic, and these new melanoma drugs are just one part of the solution. Prevention is also essential, and you can make a difference in the fight against skin cancer simply by consistently practicing sun protection behaviors year-round — not just during the summer months or while you’re on vacation. Now that fall is here, you should continue to protect your skin by seeking the shade, dressing in clothes that shield your skin from the sun, using sunscreen, and avoiding ultraviolet (UV) radiation tanning. For more information on protecting yourself, please visit our Prevention Guidelines.