Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Failure to timely diagnose melanoma is often fatal. More than 68,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma in 2010 and about 8,700 died from melanoma. The standard chemotherapy drug, dacarbazine, which is the only FDA-approved drug for melanoma, is effective for only 10% of melanoma patients.
A new experimental drug called vemurafenib, which is manufactured by Genentech, works by blocking a mutated BRAF gene (the B-Raf protein is involved in sending signals within cells and is involved with cell growth) that allows the cell to continue to grow out of control (about one half of melanoma patients have the mutated BRAF gene), which kills the cancer cell and shrinks the tumor. Almost 90% of patients taking vemurafenib benefited from the new experimental drug — 48% of the patients experienced substantial shrinkage in their tumor that lasted more than one month (melanoma patients treated with standard chemotherapy experienced less than 6% tumor shrinkage), and they had a 63% reduced risk of death compared to those patients on the standard chemotherapy regimen. The vemurafenib began working within 72 hours and 84% of those patients taking vemurafenib were alive after six months, compared to 64% of the patients taking the standard chemotherapy. Unfortunately, vemurafenib usually stops working for melanoma patients in 9 to 10 months.
Another study has shown that the recently approved drug Ipilimumab, which is manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb and is known as Yervoy, extends the survival of melanoma patients who have advanced disease by stimulating the patients’ immune system to better fight the disease. The study found that 21% of the patients receiving Yervoy along with another chemotherapy drug were alive after three years compared to 12% of the patients who received a placebo along with chemotherapy. Yerzoy continued to be effective for 19 months compared to 8 months for the other treatment group.
If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed or late-diagnosed with melanoma, you may have a medical malpractice claim against your health care provider(s) for their negligent medical care. Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to investigate your claim and represent you if appropriate. Or you may telephone us toll free at 800-295-3959.