Saturday, March 26, 2011

Major Breakthrough or False Hope?

So what's the deal with melanoma other than being recognized as the most dangerous type of skin cancer and leading cause of death among skin disease? For those you who are unfamiliar with this nightmare, I'll provide some background information. It involves cells called melanocytes, which produce a skin pigment called melanin. Melanin is responsible for your skin and hair color. What's your point Jesse? Chill out, I'm getting to that :)

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently approved a cancer medication called Yervoy that researchers claim as the first drug shown to prolong the lives of patients with advanced skin cancer. An interesting tidbit about drugs manufactured for melanoma is that there were only two others approved, both of which show no indication of significantly extending patient lives. On average, treated patients lived just four months longer than patients who were given older medications. Four months?? Someone please tell me why I would want to suffer with the disease for four more months... Well, the breakthrough lies in the fact that it provides an important step towards treating melanoma, which often does not respond to therapy.

The drug is part of a group of targeted cancer medicines that utilize the body's immune system to fight against cancer-producing cells as opposed to attacking the disease with outside chemicals like chemotherapy. It functions by blocking a molecule linked to melanoma called CTLA-4, known to interfere with the protective activity of white blood cells. As a result to having the molecule blocked, the cells are permitted to behave normally and help fight off cancer. If you ask me, this treatment approach seems more aligned with the eastern philosophy of medicine where the focus is on complementary means of treatment.

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