Melanoma, common skin cancer, was considered to be untreatable a decade ago. Only one in twenty people after being diagnosed with last stage melanoma would live past five years. But recently, immunotherapy has help patients live longer. Two drugs, Yervoy and Opdivo, made their debut in 2011 and 2016, respectively, now are being offered together to treat patients suffering from various cancers.
Immunotherapy – How does it work?
Immunotherapy is a Nobel-prize winning science, a process that stimulates a person’s immune system to fight cancer through growing his T cells, making strong durable enough to fight cancer.
T cells are crucial white blood cells in the immune system. They are of key significance as they are at the core of the system that modifies the immune response to a specific disease known as adaptive immunity. They can be considered as the infantry battalion on the border of the country, looking out for any invader and defeat it.
These T cells are grown in a lab that takes 2-8 weeks. During the time of their growth, the patient is treated with treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy to reduce cancer cells. The T cells are given back the patient by injecting them vein after these treatments.
Opdivo and Yervoy – Why are they used together?
Opdivo and Yervoy are two separate immunotherapy medicines that are used together to treat melanoma. They are different yet complementary to each other. They work to help the immune system fight cancer. The response they launch in the immune system is more significant as compared to the response launched by either of them alone.
A five-year survival analysis showing how much percentage of people diagnosed with melanoma survived the five-year mark on Opdivo and Yervoy combined, Opdivo only, and Yervoy only.
- 52% of the people treated with immunotherapy on Opdivo-Yervoy survived
- 44% of the total people treated on Opdivo alone survived.
- 28% of the people treated on Yervoy alone survived.
It gives a clear image of the difference between the impact made by these two medicines alone and together. Half of the people with melanoma lived more than five years by using these medicines together, which shows why they are used together and should continue to use them together. Doctors have stated a rapid transformation for melanoma patients as this disease was incurable ten years ago, and 50% of its patients are living longer.