A new treatment for advanced skin cancer almost doubles survival times, according to an international study.
Doctors say 132 patients in the US and Australia who were given the drug vemurafenib gained several extra months of life.
Research in the New England Journal of Medicine found those in the study lived an average of 16 months, compared with nine months on conventional treatment.
Vemurafenib (Zelboraf) has been approved for use in Europe.
The treatment is one of two drugs for late-stage melanoma, approved on fast-track in the US last year, which offer hope for patients with advanced melanoma.
Before that, there had been no new drugs for the cancer for more than a decade.
Vemurafenib is suitable for about half of patients with advanced melanoma as it targets tumours that express a certain gene mutation.
Dr Antoni Ribas, a professor of haematology/oncology and a researcher at the Jonsson Cancer Center at the University of California-Los Angeles, said: “This study shows that Zelboraf changes the natural history of this disease. This data is beyond what I would have expected.
“We’re seeing a significant number of patients with durable responses to the drug, and that the whole group of treated patients is living longer.
“These results tell us that this drug is having a very big impact, and this changes the way we treat metastatic melanoma.”
According to the European Medicines Agency, the drug has been recommended for approval in Europe, pending final authorisation by the European Commission. …