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New melanoma drug increases survival rate

Posted: 5:02 PM, May 19, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-19 21:44:24Z

A new melanoma drug, used by former President Jimmy Carter, is helping patients live longer.

The drug is called Keytruda. The American Society for Clinical Oncology says 40 percent of the patients taking it are still alive, three years later. Only five percent survived the standard treatment.

"That boosts one's immune system to attack cancerous cells," said Dr. Gregory G. Papadeas, Board Certified Dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology in Colorado. "It's the new advancement of skin cancer treatment."

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with more than 76,000 cases a year and 10,000 deaths.

"Three, four, five years ago, it was really a death sentence in the relatively near future," said Dr. Papadeas.

Treatments like Keytruda cost more than $12,000 dollars a month.

"It is expensive, and the reason why is very simple, because they put so much money in research and development to get them to the forefront," said Papadeas. "It takes a lot of money. Now that we're at the forefront, we have to pay for it to be able to receive that medication."

Dermatologists advise patients look for the "A-B-C-D-E" signs of melanoma. A is for asymmetry, B for border irregularity, C for color variation, D for diameter, and E for evolving.