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

Drug Shows Early Promise Against Advanced Melanoma

Helps immune system recognize, kill cancer cells, researchers explain

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental cancer drug that activates the immune system has shown early promise for advanced cases of melanoma skin cancer, researchers report.

The findings come from an early stage trial of just 31 patients. But experts were cautiously optimistic about what the study showed: The drug's side effects were manageable, and four patients saw their tumors shrink.

That's a small number, but a trial like this is largely aimed at seeing whether a drug is safe and finding a tolerable dose.

"Any time you see some responders in an early study, it's encouraging," said Dr. Jeffrey Weber, a melanoma expert at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, who was not involved in the research.

Much more remains to be learned about the drug -- known for now as IMCgp100. "But," Weber said, "it is good enough to show some activity in an early stage trial. It's definitely worth pursuing."

IMCgp100 is just one of several "immunotherapies" under study for advanced melanoma. The general idea behind immunotherapy is to help the body's immune system do a better job of recognizing and killing off cancer cells.

Melanoma is the rarest, but deadliest, form of skin cancer. Caught early, it's curable with surgery. But once it spreads to distant lymph nodes or other organs -- known as stage 4 melanoma -- the disease is very hard to treat.

In just the past few years, though, researchers have made headway. In 2011, the United States and Europe approved an immunotherapy drug called ipilimumab (Yervoy) -- the first treatment shown to prolong the lives of some patients with advanced melanoma.

Still, only a minority of patients respond to the drug, and it can cause severe side effects -- including life-threatening inflammation of the liver or digestive tract.

So there's an acute need for additional therapies, said Dr. Mark Middleton, who was to present the new findings on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in San Diego.

"The reality is, despite exciting advances in treatment, most of the patients we see with advanced melanoma will die of the disease," said Middleton, of Oxford University in England.

1 | 2 | 3

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