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'The beginning of a new era': More than half of skin cancer patients could be cured with new treatment

Mixture of two drugs break down cancer cells' defence and reboot patient's immune system

Seriously ill skin cancer patients have seen “spectacular effects” after being given groundbreaking new drugs.

Experts have hailed the “beginning of a new era” as scientists have been able to battle advanced melanoma for the first time. Undergoing current treatment, patients normally die within months of diagnosis.

To create the new cure, scientists combined two types of drugs: ipilimumab (known as ipi) and anti-PD1s. Together, they break down the defences of cancer cells, and reboot a patient’s immune system. This new cocktail of drugs could mean more than half of patients are cured of the devastating condition.

The treatment is still undergoing clinical trials, but one in six patients has been saved by the revolutionary treatment, the European Cancer Congress, a multidisciplinary conference for oncology professionals and patient groups, has been told.

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: “We're just at the beginning of a new era of cancer treatments using the immune system.

"These drugs that can turn the body's own defences against a tumour are starting to show real promise for melanoma and other types of cancer.

“It's only through research that we can gain the insights needed to develop new treatments for cancer patients.”

This new treatment will offer hope to the 13,000, or 35 people a day, who are diagnosed with skin cancer in the UK each year. According to the charity Cancer Research UK, over the last thirty years rates of malignant melanoma in Great Britain has risen faster than any of the current top ten cancers.

Advanced melanoma is diagnosed when it has spread and can no longer be surgically removed. Advice on the charity's website warns that patients with this form of skin cancer “can’t be cured”, stating that: “treatments are available that can shrink the melanoma or stop it growing. It may be possible to control it for quite a while.”

Professor Alexander Eggermont of the Institut Gustave Roussy in France said: “Advanced melanoma could become a curable disease for perhaps more than 50 per cent of patients within five to 10 years.”

“If I'd made this bizarre prediction five years ago, people would have said I was mad,” he told The Mail on Sunday.

“But it now looks like we are going to have control of advanced melanoma for years, in a substantial proportion of patients.”