Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Font Size

New Drug Shrinks Skin Cancer Tumors

Study Shows Improvement for Patients With Advanced Melanoma
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 23, 2009 (Berlin) -- An experimental drug appears to dramatically and rapidly shrink deadly skin cancer tumors, researchers report.

Tumors shrank in 17 of 27 patients with advanced melanoma given the new pill, known as PLX4032. In two patients, the tumors completely disappeared.

The results are "unprecedented," says Paul Chapman, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

In one patient who underwent before-and-after imaging scans, the tumor "completely healed. I've never seen anything like it," he tells WebMD.

"We began to see signs of tumors turning off within two weeks," Chapman adds.

Overall, tumors shrank in 70% of patients with a particular cancer-related mutation who were given the pill.

In contrast, chemotherapy drugs used to treat advanced melanoma shrink only about 15% of tumors, according to Chapman.

The new pill was well tolerated, with no patients dropping out due to side effects.

The findings were presented at a joint meeting of the European Cancer Organization (ECCO) and the European Society of Medical Oncology.

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, with about 160,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide each year. It is treatable if caught early, but once it spreads, it is rarely cured and typically kills within a year.

This year, there will be an estimated 68,720 new cases and 8,650 deaths from the disease in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.

The new drug blocks the activity of gene called BRAF that is involved in 50% to 60% of melanomas.

ECCO President Alexander Eggermont, MD, says the results are "simply spectacular."

Earlier research showed that patients who did not have a mutated BRAF gene did not respond to the drug, he says. "It's a targeted drug that makes sense. We know exactly what we are targeting, that is what all the excitement is about," Eggermont tells WebMD.

Chapman and colleagues are planning a study of 90 patients starting at the end of 2009 and a larger international trial involving several hundred patients in early 2010.

Plexicon, which makes the new drug and has licensed it to Roche, funded the work.

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays