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Hope for new skin cancer drugs

27 June 2016 08:57

Thousands of new skin cancer cases are diagnosed every year

Thousands of new skin cancer cases are diagnosed every year

Over 1,000 Welsh and English skin cancer patients could receive a revolutionary new, life-prolonging drug combination that has been fast-tracked for use in the NHS.

The Yervoy (ipilimumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab) mixture uses the body's immune system to fight tumours.

Tests show that over six in 10 of 95 skin cancer sufferers given the treatment remained alive two years later. Of these, 22% were tumour-free.

Few drugs have ever been approved faster in the history of the NHS.

Nice sanctioned the drugs just weeks after the European Medicines Agency granted them a licence.

The combination is targeted at patients suffering from melanoma which has dispersed throughout their bodies.

Scientists say the pair can ward off advanced melanoma's development by a typical eight months in contrast with conventional treatment.

Experts believe that roughly 1,300 patients could qualify to use these immunotherapy drugs each year.

Both drugs are called "checkpoint inhibitors". These disturb two separate signalling pathways and basically free up a person's immune system to tackle tumours.

These inhibitors are known to cause liver damage, diarrhoea and other side-effects, however.

Foreign holidays

Patients diagnosed with the disease need not rule out holidays abroad, especially if they take out skin cancer-related travel insurance.

Policies comprise round-the-clock medical help and replacement medication.

Key stats

• Melanoma claims 1,750 English lives each year

• Latest stats show that 12,200 new cases of skin cancer were detected in 2013

• Skin cancer sufferers can typically only expect to live under two years after being diagnosed.