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New drug fights metastatic melanoma

Compound offers hope for about half of patients with advanced form of the skin cancer

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7:24pm, August 25, 2010

A new drug may change the landscape of melanoma treatment, offering patients a treatment option that goes beyond anything previously used against the skin cancer, new research shows. Tests in people whose melanoma had spread show the drug was able to shrink tumors in most patients and, in a few cases, even wiped the growths out, scientists report in the Aug. 26 New England Journal of Medicine. The compound targets the protein encoded by a mutated version of the BRAF gene that underlies melanoma in roughly half of all patients.

“This demonstrates for the first time that a targeted therapy can work in melanoma,” says Richard Marais, a molecular biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research in London. “This is an enormous advance in the field. It’s just unparalleled.”

Early-stage melanoma that is confined to a spot on the skin can be surgically removed and in most cases stopped. But patients’ prospects take a deadl

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