Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Patients in the final stage of the disease have few options but a new drug is offering hope and more time. It's a pill that targets a gene found in about half of all melanoma patients.
Shirley Chance didn't expect to be alive today.
Eleven months ago doctors told her she had final stage skin cancer.
The melanoma that started on her arm had spread or metastasized.
Scans revealed tumors in her lungs and brain.
"When I said what are we talking about? He said six months to a year," said Chance.
Chance underwent radiation treatments but her prognosis remained grim until she found out about an experimental drug that is showing impressive results.
"It's really the most optimistic time I’ve ever seen for patients with advanced melanoma," said Dr. Lynn Schuchter.
Melanoma is thought to be caused by overexposure to the sun and every year close to 9,000 Americans die from the disease, but this new treatment is offering hope.
About half of all melanoma patients carry a gene that actually promotes cancer growth.
The experimental pills disrupt the gene, causing tumors to shrink.
A new study found the drug was effective in 80 percent of patients who have the gene - and it worked for an average of seven months giving those patients more time.
It's not known how long the drug will work for Chance, but so far it's been extremely effective.
Her cancer was actually sent into remission allowing her to see the birth of her grandson.
Chance says, "I used to wake up every day dying. I don't do that anymore. I wake up every day living.”
If future testing is successful the treatment could be on the market in less than two years.
The drug is so new that it does not yet have a name .
Viewers with disabilities can get assistance accessing this station's FCC Public Inspection File by contacting the station with the information listed below. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, 888-835-5322 (TTY), or firstname.lastname@example.org.