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FDA Approves wider use of Melanoma Drug to prevent Recurring Skin Cancer

Update Date: Oct 29, 2015 04:58 PM EDT

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved expanded use of melanoma drug, Yervoy (ipilimumab).

The "approval of Yervoy extends its use to patients who are at high risk of developing recurrence of melanoma after surgery," Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the FDA's Office of Hematology and Oncology Products at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said. "This new use of the drug in earlier stages of the disease builds on our understanding of the immune system's interaction with cancer."

Patients with stage 3 melanoma can now receive the intravenous drug as an adjunct therapy. Stage 3 melanoma occurs when the cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes. Patients at this stage often get surgery as a form a treatment. The procedure involves removing melanoma skin tumors and the surrounding lymph nodes. After surgery, Yervoy can be used to reduce the risk of recurring melanoma.

The FDA decided to expand the use of Yervoy after a study on 951 patients with stage 3 melanoma who underwent surgery yielded positive results. In that study, researchers found that cancer returned after an average of 26 months in 49 percent of the patients who took Yervoy post surgery. In the patients who did not receive the drug, 62 percent of them developed cancer again within 17 months.

Melanoma is the most aggressive and most fatal form of skin cancer. The U.S. National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be roughly 74,000 new cases of melanoma in the U.S. this year with about 10,000 deaths from the cancer.

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