Australian doctors have made a breakthrough
in the treatment of patients with an advanced form of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a very common
form of skin cancer and in most cases easily cured with surgery and/or
For a small percentage of patients (five
per cent), however, the cancer recurs and spreads, killing several hundred
people every year in Australia due to a lack of effective therapies.
Immunotherapy drug Cemiplimab has now
offered a lifeline to these patients.
A phase II clinical trial, published in the
New England Journal of Medicine, showed nearly half (47 per cent ) of the 59
patients on the trial had a good response, reporting a major shrinkage of the
Trial lead, Professor Danny Rischin at the
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre says the response was rapid, sustained and very
"What was quite striking is how
quickly people got better, many of these patients dramatically improved in the
space of the first few weeks," he said.
Prof Rischin said the drug offers a
treatment option when there wasn't one before.
At the beginning of the trial some patients
only had six months to live.
Now they are back to cycling long distances
and managing busy farms, said Prof Rischin.
"We have patients who were in a
desperate situation who are now nearly two years down the track and leading
normal lives," he said.
The oncologist says it's likely Cemiplimab
will become the new standard of care for this cancer with the drug currently
under "priority review" by the US Food and Drug Administration.
However, it may be some time before it
becomes financially viable for Australian patients, cautioned Prof Rischin.
The original version of this article appeared here.