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Scientists Unveil New Treatment Against Skin Cancer

Posted: September 23, 2009

Scientists offered new hope in the fight against a difficult-to-treat skin cancer on Wednesday as an early-stage clinical trial showed an experimental drug dramatically shrank tumors.

Also, another study found Roche's established cancer drug Avastin had promise in treating melanoma, but it failed to show a statistically significant improvement in survival.

Paul Chapman at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said 70% of patients with a particular gene mutation saw their tumors shrink when given the new drug PLX4032. "To put that into context, chemotherapy is about 13–15%, and that's where we have been stuck with conventional treatments," Chapman told reporters at the ECCO-ESMO cancer congress in Berlin.

Of the 27 patients evaluated in the small Phase I study, two responded completely and signs of their disease disappeared. Preliminary findings with the new drug were first reported in June but the new data from more patients has increased confidence in the approach.

Alexander Eggermont, president of the European Cancer Organization, described the trial as "simply spectacular" and showed the benefits of targeting treatment. The news would transform melanoma work into "a very exciting field instead of a graveyard," he said.