Malignant Melanoma (MM) is one of the last cancers for which effective drug treatments have been developed. Just a decade ago there were no good treatments available - the only Chemotherapy drugs only extended lives by a month or so and made the patients extremely ill. It is still a deadly form of cancer which causes about 10,000 deaths in the US, or about 10 percent of the newly discovered cases each year. The NHS reports there are about 8,000 cases of MM diagnosed each year in the UK.

Opdivo and Yervoy treat advanced melanoma.

Bristol-Myers Squibb announced results of clinical trials on 945 patients with advanced MM who were treated either with Opdivo, Yervoy (monotherapy), or a combination of Opdivo (nivolumab, a B-M Squibb chemotherapy drug) and Yervoy (ipilimumab, a monoclonal antibody).

The full outcome is not yet known because many of the patients are still alive but after two years the survival rate for those receiving the combination dose was 64 percent, 59 percent for those who received only Opdivo, and 45 percent for those given only Yervoy.

Statistically, the increase in life expectancy or OS (Overall Survival since treatment began) is not a lot higher for those who got the combination treatment but the 5% increase is certainly significant and the company reports that the complications experienced by the group on the dual drug therapy were not significantly higher than for those getting only one drug. Patients should discuss the risks of the combination treatment vs the small but significant increase in life expectancy.

Opdivo is also approved for treatment of bladder cancer.

Dangers of malignant melanoma.

Caught early cancerous melanomas can be removed by a simple outpatient surgical procedure and is easy to cure but many people don’t learn they have the disease until it is in the later stages where it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs at which point it used to be nearly 100% fatal.

A decade or more ago these stage IV patients had a five-year survival rate of only about 20%.

Malignant melanoma is believed to be almost entirely preventable since it seems to be caused only by exposure to too much sun - as few as one severe sunburn in childhood is considered enough to greatly increase the chance of developing the cancer in later years.

There is statistically significant evidence from Scandinavian and other studies such as British Journal of Dermatology Volume 147 Issue 2 Page 197 - August 2002, which show that Vitamin D-3 (1, 25-dihydroxy vitamin D3) or calcitriol, can be beneficial in treating or even preventing malignant melanoma. Another form of the vitamin, known as D-1 actually destroys Vitamin D-3 in humans and both are created by exposure to sunlight.

The WHO or World Health Organization has estimated that in 20 years there will be nearly 400 thousand new cases of malignant melanoma worldwide with nearly 100,000 deaths.

There is more detailed information about the function of Vitamin D-3 in the Amazon kindle book, “ Does Vitamin D-3 Cure Malignant Melanoma?,” free for Amazon Prime members.

And “Sunlight and Reduced Risk of Cancer: Is The Real Story Vitamin D?,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2005) 97 (3): 161-163.

NOTE: your reporter is a cancer survivor, stage 2 malignant melanoma.