Those suffering from melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, now have access to drug nivolumab. National Health Service in England, a publicly funded healthcare system providing free services, has approved the use of the new drug.
Nivolumab is a drug that is part of a new wave of immunotherapy treatments. These treatments work to target the body’s own immune system and attack tumors by blocking a negative regulator of T-cell activation. Nivolumab is twice as effective as chemotherapy and allows dying patients to live longer with much less side-effects. The drug is delivered by a drip IV with 73% higher survival rate in those on nivolumab versus those on chemotherapy with only a 42% survival rate.
Nivolumab is not yet approved for treating lung cancer in England since officials calculate the treatment would be less cost effective than it would be for skin cancer. In Europe, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended approval of nivolumab for metastatic melanoma as a monotherapy. The Food and Drug Association here in the US has received approval for treatment of nivolumab for melanoma in December 2014 and in March 2015 it was also approved for the treatment of squamous non-small cell lung cancer.
Current clinical trials are also showing promise in the use of nivolumab for gastric cancer. These new immunotherapy treatments be the beginning of curing cancer by boosting the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer for good.