MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Melanoma is one of the most aggressive and sometimes deadly types of skin cancer. The West Virginia University Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center is part of a national study on a drug for melanoma patients whose tumor has been surgically removed but who are high-risk for the melanoma to return.

The only drug currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for these patients is high-dose interferon.   

The drug in the study underway at the WVU Cancer Center is ipilimumab (pronounced IP i LIM ue mab), an immunotherapy drug that stimulates the body’s immune system to fight melanoma. It has been shown to improve survival in patients with advanced melanoma, which has spread to other organs. However, it is only FDA approved for treatment of advanced melanoma when surgery is not possible.

“The problem with interferon is that patients have significant side effects from the drug, and it hasn’t been shown to improve overall survival. We hope that the study results are encouraging so that high-risk melanoma patients have another treatment option to choose from,” Miklos Auber, M.D., lead investigator of the study at the WVU Cancer Center, said. “We will also learn how effective ipilimumab is in improving patients’ survival. We have to keep trying, and clinical trials, like this one, are the way to go to get better treatments.”

If caught early, and removed surgically, melanoma is nearly 100 percent curable. The National Cancer Institute estimates more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed and more than 9,000 deaths will occur in the United States this year.
For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
ss: 06-17-13