Yervoy, new melanoma drug approved for use in Australia

16:38, July 15, 2011      

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The world's first drug to increase life expectancy of people with advanced melanoma has been approved for use in Australia, local media reported on Friday.

The breakthrough drug Yervoy got approval from the Therapeutics Good Association (TGA) on Friday amid hopes it could add two years to the life of people with the most lethal form of skin cancer but for whom other treatments have failed, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) said.

Clearance for the drug's use in Australia follows similar approvals by the U.S. health regulator in March.

Yervoy works by attacking and destroying cancer cells.

Patients are hooked up to an intravenous drip once every three weeks for a total of four doses.

Professor Peter Hersey, consultant immunologist to the Melanoma Institute Australia, said no other drug had improved survival rates like Yervoy.

"Not all patients respond to it but those who do have a good chance of living longer than they would have otherwise," Hersey told AAP.

While it may improve survival rates, Yervoy can produce side effects from diarrhea and vomiting to serious blood infections and kidney failure.

The average survival time for people with advanced melanoma is just six months.

A global study of 676 people with melanoma found that 45 percent of patients given Yervoy were still alive after one year, according to AAP.

More than 20 percent lived at least two years, with a small number managing to survive for six years.

A separate study, published in June, which showed similarly improved survival rates for patients with newly diagnosed advanced melanoma, has raised hopes that Yervoy could be made more widely available.

Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in Australia, with 10, 300 people diagnosed each year.

Source: Xinhua
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