The Canadian regulatory body, pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review or pCODRhas made an initial recommendation that includes positive clinical evaluations for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, ipilimumab (Yervoy?, Bristol-Myers Squibb)and vemurafenib (Zelboraf?, Genentech). The drugs are recommended for treatment of skin cancer patients whose melanoma has spread from the skin to other organs of the body.

Melanoma is one of the fastest-growing cancers worldwide, and can affect anyone regardless of sex, age or race. It is one of the most frequently-diagnosed cancers in Canada, affecting 5,500 people in 2011 and causing 950 deaths.[1] The incidence of melanoma has been increasing for the past 30 years,[2] more rapidly among men than any other cancer, and more rapidly among women than any other cancer except lung cancer. [3]

The recommendation is tremendous news for Candian melanoma patients who for decades had far too few treatment options and are now one step closer to having two advances that can improve their survival chances.

Fighting chance at survival
“What these latest therapies give the melanoma community is hope and a fighting chance at survival,” said Annette Cyr, Chair of the Melanoma Network of Canada, a patient-led organization dedicated to the prevention and elimination of melanoma. “There is no question that for patients who need these treatments, time is of the essence. The Melanoma Network of Canada is urging the provinces to follow the pCODR recommendation and make provincial funding decisions a priority.”

Two different approaches
The treatments, ipilimumab and vemurafenib, represent two different approaches to treat metastatic melanoma and each individually is an important advance in this field and a new option to give patients a fighting chance.

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“Having these two new treatments available to patients will revolutionize the treatment of metastatic melanoma,” said medical oncologist Anthony Joshua, MD. “The clinical evidence supporting ipilimumab and vemurafenib is strong and I hope these treatments will reach clinics across the country quickly so that melanoma patients will have critically needed treatment options available.”

For more information
[1] Melanoma Network of Canada.Facts Summary. Last accessed March 29, 2012.
[2] Public Health Agency of Canada.Melanoma Skin Cancer Facts and Figures. Last accessed March 29, 2012.
[3] Horn-Ross, P.L., Holly, E.A., Brown, S.R., et al. Temporal trends in the incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma among Caucasians in the San Francisco-Oakland MSA. Canc Causes Contr.1991; 2(5):299-305.

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