A Hero Called "ipi"
The news is not a surprise. We have been waiting for it for days. Maybe years. I was sitting in my office this morning when the phone rang. On the line was a colleague telling me the news—the FDA has approved a new drug for metastatic melanoma.
The Melanoma Research Foundation was started by Diana Ashby who, when told that treatment options were limited for her melanoma, determined to generate funds to support melanoma research. She died not long after that, but her husband Jeff, a space shuttle pilot and Navy flier, kept up the work.
Two years later, MRF gave out its very first research grant. The year was 1998, the same year the FDA approved the use of IL-2 (interleukin 2) for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. No-one in their darkest nightmare would have imagined that 13 years would pass before another drug would be approved.
For thirteen years melanoma patients—and the people who love them—have hoped for some kind of good news. Year after year, at the big cancer science meetings, researchers have stood up in front of their peers and said, “We tried this approach in melanoma and if failed.” Some new approach would come along. The media would describe early studies and the good data. Patients would get excited. Then, when the bigger studies happened, the treatment would prove to be futile.
Now, for the first time, the news is good. Good, but not great. Only about 20% of people taking this drug benefit from it. And the benefit has a median extension of life of four months. Still, it is a sign of hope. And hope, like the first flower of spring, is a thing of beauty.