Each year, more than 600 Floridians lose their battle with melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, and thousands more begin their battle. It’s estimated that one in five Americans will eventually develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
However, there is hope. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a new drug that may stand up to cancer where other medicines cannot.
When cancer strikes, the body’s white blood cells try to fight back, but the cancer cells have a shield. Keytruda, the new drug, breaks the shield down, which allows the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
Oftentimes, tumors shrink, and in many cases, have vanished. It’s even being given to former-President Jimmy Carter, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.
The lead on the drug trials, UCLA’s Dr. Antoni Ribas, said the drug’s successes have amazed him.
“There is hope to take a trip to Alaska and see some of god’s creations and there’s hope to see these spring calves that I have go to market.”
However, the drug is not without side effects. Keytruda can lead to an increased potential for various immune-related problems, such thyroid disorders and liver, lung or colon inflammation.
Nevertheless, doctors everywhere are excited about the new drug. New Zealand and Australia, which have the highest rates of skin cancer in the entire world, have approval for the use of Keytruda. In Australia, it’s already available on the public health system, but in New Zealand, it still needs funding. Oncologist Christopher Jackson from New Zealand said Keytruda is the biggest breakthrough in melanoma in 35 years.
“They’re very effective in the majority of people, not everyone, but they can shrink the tumor in front of your eyes, literally,” he said.