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Cancer Drug Showing Promise For Melanoma Patients

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Steve Pickett
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – There’s a lot of optimism in the medical world this week for a cancer drug that is shrinking tumors and prolonging life.  Study results from the use of the new drug are getting a lot of attention, based on its effectiveness for those living with melanoma.

Sandy Heidtke, a 50-year old mother of three, is approaching her one-year mark of living with melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  Her fight against it includes Baylor oncologist Lance Cowey, a team of medical analysts, and a new drug, known as PD-1 inhibitors, touted as a heavyweight in the battle against cancer.

“It’s going to help me. I believe it’s going to help me,” says Heidtke.

The drugs help a body’s immune system attack cancer cells.

Dr. Alan Miller, Chief Oncologist for the Baylor Cancer Center says, “What it’s doing is helping the body’s own immune system to get rid of the cancer.”

“So these treatments break down that barrier the cancer has put up to the immune system, allow the immune system to, either alone or with other therapies, fight off the cancer.”

Clinical trials for the drug start at Baylor in July.  So far, the studies indicate success, particularly for patients with melanoma.

“These drugs are not only helping patients live better, but live longer,” says Dr. Cowey.

That’s exactly what Sandy Heidtke needs and wants, a drug that helps her own body fight off the cancer in her body.

“If I can make it 3-4 years down the line, there’s a cure out there,” she believes.   And we’re getting closer. So I just need to hang on.”

PD-1 inhibitors are not approved by the FDA.  There are several drug companies making the drugs and using them in clinical trials.