Medical Breakthrough: New Skin Cancer Therapy Tested in Australia

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Melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer that develops in cells containing melanin pigment. According to data for 2015, over 3 million people around the world are diagnosed with the condition. 

In a recent attempt to treat the disease, Australian researchers conducted two separate trials to fight off the spread of the disease in patients whose tumors were surgically removed. 

The team announced the new therapy in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Dr. Andrew Haydon, a consultant with Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, explained how the new treatment is a breakthrough in treating the disease.

“These trials were conducted for treatment of stage three of melanoma following complete resection of metastasis in the lymph nodes. The aim of this treatment is to try and prevent further metastasis from spreading to stage four,” Haydon said.

According to the consultant, the first test was based on immunotherapy and required participants to take immunotherapy drugs for a year. In the second trial, the participants received a combination of targeted therapies, which block a melanoma-causing gene.

Both tests lasted one year, respectively, and their results have shown a considerable decrease in the chance of melanoma recurrence.

“There was a 20 percent reduction in the risk of relapse, which also resulted in a significant overall improvement in survival,” Haydon said.

According to the consultant, melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in Australia and it is the most common type of cancer in people under the age of 40. Hence, it is a very significant problem in the country.

“Australia has the highest rates of melanoma in the world,” Haydon said.

Talking about the availability of the drug and its price, Haydon said that the treatment is expensive, and one year costs about $50,000 to $80,000. It is, however, available in many countries and is approved for stage four cancer treatments.

Currently, the researchers are waiting for funding from the Australian government in order to make it more widely available for patients suffering from stage three melanoma.

© Flickr/ ZEISS Microscopy

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