Two drugs---Yervoy from Bristol Myers Squibb and vemurafenib from Roche Holding and Daiichi Sankyo---are showing they can put a dent in melanoma, according to two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The studies, published Sunday, indicate that the drugs can prolong survival for patients with melanoma. The two drugs operate differently. Yervoy boosts the human body's immune system while vemurafenib blocks a genetic mutation dubbed BRAF, which helps melanoma grow.
According to the Yervoy study, the median survival was 11.2 months for Yervoy patients also on chemotherapy. For patients with chemotherapy only the survival rate was 9.1 months. Some patients showed long-germ gains with Yervoy relative to chemotherapy. After three years, 21 percent of patients with Yervoy were still living relative to 12 percent with just chemotherapy.
Vemurafenib improved survival relative to chemotherapy. Patients with BRAF had a 63 percent cut in death risk after three months. After six months, 84 percent of patients were alive with the drug compared to 64 percent for the chemo-only group. The study didn't determine overall survival benefits.
In an editorial, the New England Journal of Medicine said:
The new understanding of molecular pathways changes the way we classify melanomas and influences therapy. The development of vemurafenib is an example of the translation of these concepts into clinical practice.
In the big picture, these two studies are likely to be used as building blocks for future treatments.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com