Of the approximately 5,500 Canadians with melanoma skin cancer, 50 percent carry a mutation in the BRAF gene (a gene involved in sending signals in cells). For them, there’s a new treatment: Health Canada recently approved the drug Zelboraf (generic name vemurafenib). The first form of personalized medicine for treating metastatic melanoma, Zelboraf specifically targets the mutated gene and inhibits its protein. A quick genetic test using a tissue sample will tell doctors if the drug will help. In a study, Zelboraf reduced by 74 percent the chance of dying from the cancer or having it progress. A recent study from Mayo Clinic researchers shows the incidence of melanoma has drastically risen, with young women forming the majority of new cases. In the past 39 years, incidence has increased eightfold for young women and fourfold for young men.
This article was originally titled "A new drug treatment for melanoma patients" in the Summer 2012 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!