Friday, September 9, 2011
Medical Reports: Promise in a Pill
Melanoma it's a deadly skin cancer. Everyone here in Florida should be worried about since we have some of the highest rates in the country, but for the first time in decades, there's finally a new drug to help patients live longer. 7's Christine Cruz has the story on this "Promise in a Pill."
WSVN -- Fifty-three-year-old year old Patricia Keller grew up in South Florida during a time when everyone competed for the deepest, darkest tan.
Patricia Keller: "I sunbathed in my backyard with baby oil like many did back in the days. Never really had a thought about skin cancer."
Until a couple of years ago when a mole on her shoulder changed and she was diagnosed with stage four melanoma .
Patricia Keller: "You're scared. You know melanoma can kill you."
Patricia had the mole removed but unfortunately the vicious cancer had spread.
Patricia Keller: "Within two years, it had progressed to my lungs."
It kept spreading throughout her body and like many melanoma patients, she didn't have a lot of good treatment options.
Dr. Jose Lutzky: "For the past several decades we haven't had drugs that have had an impact
on surviving patients."
But recently Patricia's doctor Dr. Jose Lutzky at Mt. Sinai's Comprehensive Cancer Center told her about a clinical trial for a new drug called Zelboraf.
Dr. Jose Lutzky: "These are drugs that prolong survival in patients with melanoma. This is a major milestone in the treatment of melanoma."
Four pills are taken twice a day and almost immediately start attacking cancer cells.
Dr. Jose Lutzky: "It works very rapidly, sometimes in a matter of days. That has been called the Lazarus Effect, in which patients that are very ill, near death, kinda resuscitated when given the drug."
Dr. Lutzky says the drug works in about half of the patients, which he considers a major success. Of course like any new drug, it may be too early to tell just how much it can do.
Dr. Jose Lutzky: "Definitely, there is an improvement in survival. We just don't know for sure if we are going to be able to cure patients with this drug. We haven't had long enough follow-up."
Patricia has gotten astonishing results.
Patricia Keller: "I was on the treatment for two months, and the tumors in my lungs, were severely reduced. There were things that were gone and were collapsing."
She's banking on this pill for the promise of a longer life.
Patricia Keller: "I think it's going to continue to work for me. And I'm going to continue on it for as long as I can."
Christine Cruz: "The FDA has just approved this drug so it's now being offered to patients. This drug does have one interesting side effect. It causes skin cancer not the deadly kind, but doctors have to watch patients carefully, so they can remove the lesions."