advances in melanoma treatment

There is no mistaking that science and medicine advance every day. We are all gifted to live in a world that allows scientists to develop medication to not only beat cancer, but also make it disappear. Thanks to a dedicated group of researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, medicine is now employing the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

Image courtesy of cellularimaging.perkinelmer.com.

Image courtesy of cellularimaging.perkinelmer.com.

According to the results of the research, around 40% of the participants in the study experienced a reduction in their tumors from this new and experimental treatment plan. A combination of ipilimumab, brand name Yervoy, (a treatment used for malignant melanoma) and a new immunotherapy drug named Nivolumab, encourages the immune system to actually reject the cancer. Not only are oncologists seeing sometimes massive tumors shrink, but in some cases they are disappearing altogether.  Thankfully, this new treatment plan is not just for lung and kidney cancers, but it has also shown remarkable strides in reversing malignant melanoma.

According to the article written by NBCNews.com, the idea of immunotherapy has been researched by oncologists for more than a century with very few success stories. Scientists are finally on the cusp of understanding the immune system enough to start using it as a defense mechanism against cancer.

Yervoy was one of the first drugs in immunotherapy that was approved for the treatment of melanoma. The success rates of this one drug would be considered low in most cases, but 11 percent is actually quite outstanding given the alternative. Scientists then experimented with a combination of Yervoy and nivolumab, which allowed the T-cells (white blood cells) to attach to the cancer cells at two different points, thus disarming the cancer cells from replicating. Previous drug combinations were only able to attach at one point on the cancer cell, which kept the killer T-cells from destroying the cancer. This new and experimental combination of drugs increased the rates of success to 40%. Although this study is still in the initial stages, the success rate is projected to be around 65% once the optimal dose is achieved.

Oncologists are extremely hopeful that future studies will potentially cure cancer patients whose diagnoses were fatal by employing this combination of drugs.

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