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FDA Approves Skin Cancer Drug Shown To Extend Survival

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Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy (Associated Press Business Wire Photo)

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy (Associated Press Business Wire Photo)

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CHICAGO (STMW) - The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first drug shown to extend survival in people with late-stage melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The drug, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Yervoy, is a new treatment option for melanoma patients who fail to respond to other treatments.

Also known as ipilimumab, the drug appears to work by blocking a molecule that hinders the body’s ability to fight off cancer cells.

In a trial of 676 melanoma patients, people who received ipilimumab lived 10 months on average, compared to 6 months for people not taking the drug, according to a study published last year. Patients taking ipilimumab were also more likely to be alive after two years.

A more recent trial found that ipilumamab may also improve survival for previously untreated melanoma patients.

Side effects include fatigue, diarrhea, skin and inflammation of the intestines.

More than 68,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed last year, and about 8,700 died from it, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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