But then he explains that the new drug -- ipilimumab -- improves life expectancy from 6 months to 10 months. And it works well in only 20-30% of patients, the other 70-80% of patients showing no benefit at all. And it carries serious side effects, such as colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Is the fanfare hype? Are we celebrating too soon?
No. This IS big news:
- Scientists have overcome a longstanding barrier by demonstrating a drug with some activity against a disease that until now has been uniformly fatal. This advance represents the chink in the armor that gives us reason to have hope.
- The drug was tested only on patients with end-stage widely metastatic disease. We have reason to hope that a larger percentage with earlier disease might respond.
- Scientists can now study how and when to use this drug optimally, such as in conjunction with other therapies that until now have been ineffective.
- For the 20-30% of patients who did benefit, the few extra months of good quality life were priceless.
Healthy Survivors celebrate progress in medicine, even if the news seems unrelated to their personal health challenge. Anything that moves the science of medicine forward may lead to new insights in the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of a wide variety of diseases.