A recent report released at a conference hosted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago has identified two new drugs that hold enormous potential for patients experiencing skin cancer in its more advanced stages. The drugs are called ‘pembrolizumab’ and ‘nivolumab’ and both work in similar ways, restricting access to the biological routes cancer normally uses in order to avoid detection by the body’s immune system.

Trials of pembrolizumab included 411 patients in advanced stages of melanoma- skin cancer which has spread to surrounding organs. The average survival rate for these patients is as little as six months, but with the use of pembrolizumab, 69% of these 411 patients survived at least a year through using this treatment. Furthermore, the same drug is undergoing additional trials in order to consider how it might be used against other types of tumours.

Alternatively, in a smaller trial, nivolumab was tested on 53 patients. In this trial, nivolumab was partnered with an existing drug called ipilimumab. This trial was composed of a similar patient sample, including individuals in the advanced stages of spreading skin cancer. In this trial, survival rates were even higher with an 85% survival rate for the first year and a 79% survival rate for the following year.

As these drugs are still incredibly new, it will be some time until the true effectiveness and the inner workings of these emerging medications are properly understood. Despite this, pembrolizumab and nivolumab encourage some much needed hope in regards to cancer treatment. In this increasingly bleak world it is important to remember that as research continues and medical technology improves, humans are making significant ground in the battle against cancer.