Vemurafenib and Ipilimumab are both drugs with cumbersome names but they are actually tiny antibodies designed to attack particular kinds of melanoma. Two recent clinical trials were published in the New England Journal of Medicine that show promising results for these drugs.
In one article in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors MacArthur and Chapman et al. describe a phase 3 clinical trial where 675 patients were randomly assigned to receive Vemurafenib or a conventional drug (dacarbazine). It was so clear that patients on Vemurafenib were living longer that the patients who had been randomized to the conventional group were switched over and given Vemurafenib.
Here is a quote from the article:
Vemurafenib produced improved rates of overall and progression-free survival in patients with previously untreated melanoma with the BRAF V600E mutation. [Approxamatly 40 - 60% of melanomas fall into this catagory]
In the other article, doctors Robert and Wolchok et al describe that Ipilimumab plus dacarbazine works better than decarbazine alone:
In summary, this trial showed that there was a significant improvement in overall survival among patients with previously untreated metastatic melanoma who received ipilimumab plus dacarbazine as compared with dacarbazine plus placebo. Adverse events other than those typically seen with dacarbazine or ipilimumab therapy were not identified.
The New York Times published an article about this and quoted Dr. Lynn M. Schuchter, a melanoma specialist at the University of Pennsylvania who was at the initial presentation of these results as saying:
“This is an unprecedented time of celebration for our patients.”
Only liver toxicities, nausea and vomiting were common side effects that patients on both clinical trials experienced.
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