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

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 Extends Lives of Melanoma Patients

Study Shows Ipilimumab Helps Immune System Fight Deadly Skin Cancer

Ipilimumab Effective, but Not Benign

Previous research suggested that gp100 vaccine and ipilimumab act synergistically to fight tumors.

So for this study, the researchers assigned 676 patients at 125 centers around the world to one of three treatment groups: ipilimumab plus the gp100 vaccine; ipilimumab alone; or gp100 alone. All patients had failed to be helped by previous treatment.

Results showed that people who got ipilimumab alone lived an average of 10.1 months vs. 6.4 months for those who got gp100 alone. This corresponds to a 68% improvement in survival time.

"The addition of the gp100 vaccine [to ipilimumab] did not improve survival, but also did not increase side effects," O'Day says.

More importantly, 45.6% of people who took ipilimumab were alive after one year vs. 25.3% in the vaccine group, he says. At two years, the figures were 24% and 14%, respectively.

The drug, which is given as a 90-minute infusion every three weeks for four months, was hard for many patents to tolerate and even caused some deaths.

Serious immune-related reactions such as rash and colitis occurred in 10% to 15% of ipilimumab-treated patients compared with 3% on gp100 alone. Fourteen patients (2.1%) in the study died because of reactions to the treatment, seven from immune system problems.

Ipilimumab for Metastatic Melanoma

Nevertheless, melanoma doctors who heard the results here say they are enthusiastic about the new option.

"The prognosis for metastatic melanoma is really grim," says Patrick Hwu, MD, chief of the melanoma department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

"A small subset of patients who get this drug will do well, living over five years," he says.

Since it is toxic, the challenge is to figure out which patients will benefit most, Hwu says.

Researchers are working to find biomarkers to guide treatment choices, he tells WebMD.

Doctors are most excited about the possibility of combining ipilimumab with experimental targeted drugs called BRAF inhibitors that show promise in early studies, Hwu says.

You could take the brakes off the immune system with ipilimumab and add extra gas with the BRAF inhibitors, he says.

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