Immunotherapy is fast becoming the treatment of choice for many types of cancer as it offers a more natural method to target cancer cells. Canadian melanoma patients received great news yesterday about the much-awaited approval of a breakthrough immunotherapy medication indicated for unresectable or metastatic melanoma.
Immunotherapeutic agent Yervoy® (ipilimumab) by Bristol-Myers Squibb has just received approval from Health Canada. It is formulated to inhibit cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4), an innate immunosuppressant. This is especially important news to patients who have just been diagnosed with melanoma, as their physicians may begin including this novel drug into their initial regimen.
Dr. Michael Smylie of the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton believes that Yervoy, the first and only immunotherapy for melanoma in Canada, will significantly change what is known and what is considered standard in treating this deadly type of skin cancer. Now that it is available as a very promising first-line of treatment, newly diagnosed melanoma patients can benefit early on in treating the disease from a more effective regimen, and have a better chance at long-term survival.
Yervoy has treated more than 30,000 Canadians. In 2013, it received the Prix Galien Canada Innovative Product Award. This year it ranked as one of the country’s top 10 emerging medical technologies, as selected by the Canadian Network for Environmental Scanning in Health.
In other melanoma news, earlier this year, the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston became a site for Agenus Inc.’s clinical trials that tested the efficacy of Yervoy combined with Prophage — also a melanoma treatment – in producing a stronger immune response.