WSVN -- We all know soaking up the hot South Florida sun can lead to skin cancer.
Madeline Ramos: "Sunscreen. I'm bad. I don't use any type of sunscreen."
No one knows that better than Madeline, who was recently diagnosed with the most deadly form: melanoma.
Madeline Ramos: "I feel good. They caught it in time."
But now, researchers say, they've made a big breakthrough in the fight against melanoma. Studies published this week report a drug called Ipilimumab significantly improved survival in people with advanced stages of the disease.
The drug works by helping the immune system fight tumors.
Dr. James Grichnik, UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center: "This particular drug is one that basically removes the brakes of the immune system."
Which allows the immune system to attack cancer cells throughout the body. In the study, people who received the drug lived about four months longer than those not getting the drug.
Dr. James Grichnik: "Clearly, we would all like to see even greater benefit than that, but this is a major advance to help us get to where we need to be."
Doctors at the UM's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center call the news exciting but warn we are far from a cure.
Dr. James Grichnik: "I think this is a piece. It's helpful. I still think we have a long way to go."
Nicole Linsalata: "The drug is not yet FDA-approved. Researchers say, it's only been tested on the most advanced cases of melanoma and are hopeful it could be even more effective for people in the early stages of the disease. In the meantime, doctors say early detection is your best bet against skin cancer."