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Skin cancer drug "extends lives"

A new treatment for skin cancer could extend the lives of 50% of patients suffering with the disease, according to research.

During a test of 680 patients at Royal Marsden Hospital in London, the RG7204 drug was effective in shrinking advanced malignant melanoma tumours in 70% of cases.

The drug specifically targets the faulty BRAF protein, which is a genetic mutation discovered in half of all melanoma cases. The treatment works by searching for and blocking the gene.

Researchers are yet to reveal how much of a difference the drug can make to patients' life expectancies but they said it was a significant difference to those receiving normal chemotherapy treatments.

Results from the study have not yet been published for other cancer specialists to review.

Dr Lesley Walker from Cancer Research UK said: "There are very few options for patients with advanced melanoma, so these results are really encouraging.

"The drug is not yet licensed and unavailable to patients not on a clinical trial, but we hope that these results will change this situation very rapidly."

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Royal Marsden Hospital