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Experimental Drug Helps Body Fight Melanoma

Some patients kept disease at bay for more than a year after last dose of nivolumab

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Overall, 62 percent of patients who enrolled in the trial were still alive a year later, and 43 percent were still alive after two years.

As of March 2013, the last study update, researchers reported 19 patients were still alive. A few have maintained their results for more than a year after taking their last dose of the drug.

In contrast, studies of another immune therapy for melanoma, a drug called Yervoy, found that up to 49 percent of patients were still alive after one year and up to 33 percent of patients were still alive two years after taking the medication. Yervoy was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011.

"The fact that this article quoted one-year and two-year survival rates that are as high as they are is truly outstanding," said Olszanski.

"These results, if they are duplicated in a large study, they will be practice changing for patients with melanoma and this will quickly vault to a first-line therapy," he said.

Researchers said larger studies of nivolumab were already underway.

The findings were reported online March 3 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study was sponsored by drug makers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ono Pharmaceutical. Several study authors reported financial ties to the company. The researchers would not speculate about the potential price of nivolumab, but drugs of this ilk tend to cost thousands of dollars a month.

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