The next penicillin: New drug keeping melanoma sufferers alive 8



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In Australia, we have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, and this year, 30 of us will be diagnosed with the disease every day, and more than 1,200 will die in 12 months. These are alarming statistics, but now there has been a breakthrough in the treatment for sufferers.

The new drug’s development has been labelled the next penicillin – it tricks the body into destroying cancer and is keeping melanoma sufferers alive longer than ever.

And now there’s hope the new drug could be effective in helping destroy cancer cells in other areas of the down. The Therapeutic Goods Administration have approved an anti-PD1 (immunotherapy) drug for the treatment of melanoma for the first time.

The only downside is that pembrolizumab is very pricey at $10,000-$15,000 a month but could soon be subsidised on the PBS – how would it change your life?

A new study, using patients from a Sydney clinic in its research, has found that pembrolizumab (or Keytruda, as it’s also known) is far more effective that other existing treatments in treating advanced melanoma.

According to Sydney Westmead Hospital oncologist, Rick Kefford, “The majority of patients died within two years.

“There’s been a complete transformation in our clinics, in what we’re doing [and] in the expectations of patients.

“Many go off and … go on round the world trips. Many return to work and absolutely normal living.

“It’s a complete transformation”, he told the ABC.

Melanoma isn’t the only cancer which would benefit from the immunotherapy drug, as doctors begin to see the possibilities of using it to treat many other cancers.

Associate Professor Georgina Long, a clinical researcher at the Melanoma Institute of Australia, told 7.30, “Not just for the melanoma world but for the cancer world, this is a very significant time in cancer drug development.

“This is what one of my colleagues would say is a penicillin moment really for drug therapy for cancer”.

Tell us today, do you or someone you know suffer from melanoma? How would this drug change your life?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Let’s hope that mass production can make this drug available soon at a lower cost. No doubt though, there will be some side effects.

  2. Too late for some, if the side effects are to live I’m darn sure, it would be worth it,great news.

  3. As someone who has had stage 4 melanoma for 23 years I am forever grateful! It saved my life. So happy to hear it is also working on other cancers.

  4. Hopefully it will be available for my husband who has inoperable cancer but is going ok at the moment. Would like to think it will go on the PBS very soon!

  5. My husband has stage 4 lung cancer with metastases in liver and lymph,,,,terminal….
    He is trialling a similar drug,,,,,works to stimulate the body’s immune system…I pray it will give us at least one more hear

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