Melanoma, the fastest-growing cancer in the United States, affects over 68,000 Americans. In 2010 alone, almost 9000 Americans died from melanoma. Though it is easily treatable when detected early, after melanoma spreads, survival rates drop drastically. Fortunately, the FDA recently approved a new drug to target-treat metastatic melanoma cells. The medication is a huge step forward in oncology and could significantly improve metastatic melanoma survival rates.
Approval for the new drug, Zelboraf, was based on a clinical study involving about 700 patients with late-stage melanoma. In the study, 77% of the patients survived after 8 months, compared to 64% of patients who underwent standard chemotherapy. Furthermore, Zelboraf’s side effects appear to be less harsh than chemotherapy’s, because Zelboraf specifically targets and genes that are unique to skin cancer tumors. Zelboraf is approved for inoperable or late-stage melanoma that tests positive for BRAF gene mutation.
The FDA’s approval of Zelboraf and the study’s results are encouraging indicators that the drug can both extend the lifespan and improve the quality of life of individuals with late-stage melanoma. However, prevention remains the most important tactic to fend off against skin cancer. Avoid sun damage and especially sun burns by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing while outdoors, and by limiting your total outdoor exposure. Also, try to do your outdoor activities before 10 AM and after 4 PM. Be sure to have regular check-ups with your dermatologist regarding any sun damage or irregular moles.