Irish doctors are working as part of a worldwide medical team that believe testing on two new drugs has shown encouraging signs that a ‘cure for cancer could be within reach’.
Two hospitals in Dublin, plus one in Cork and one in Galway are taking part in a global trial of the two new drugs to battle skin cancer. Of 7,000 skin cancer patients around the world taking part in the tests, twenty-four are in Ireland.
The results have shown an incredible rise in survival rates for patients who have received two years’ treatment with these new drugs, with 94% and 88% in comparison to the existing survival rates of 40% and 20% respectively.
Melanoma, the medical term for skin cancer, kills 110 people in Ireland every year. The most aggressive form of the disease, malignant melanoma, rapidly spreads to other organs in the body. One in four people die within five years of being diagnosed with the malignant melanoma.
These new drugs, called nivolumab, and ipilimumab, harness the body’s natural immune system to combat the disease.
Michael Giordano, head of development at Bristol-Myers Squibb Company who are funding the trials, said: “The science of immuno-oncology – harnessing the patient’s immune system to treat cancer – is rapidly evolving. These results are the most advanced data set to date evaluating the potential of combining immunotherapies. They reinforce our aspiration that combining immunotherapies may be foundational and may have the potential to change the standard of care by transforming survival expectations.”
Derek Power of Cork University Hospital added: “This really is an amazing breakthrough, albeit it’s early data. There is the tantalising possibility of a cure with immuno-therapy.”
The drugs may be available to cancer sufferers as early as next year, although the expected cost of treatment will start at around €80,000.