How Effective Is Ipilimumab for Melanoma?

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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Ipilimumab is an effective treatment for melanoma, generally improving survival rates for patients suffering from the aggressive form of skin cancer. Studies have indicated that patients taking ipilimumab for melanoma will survive for longer — around 10 months — than patients taking other treatments — about 6.4 months. Research has also shown that combining the drug with dacarbazine is more effective than dacarbazine administered with a placebo. Overall, ipilimumab is considered a very effective treatment for melanoma, but the drug does carry some potentially very serious side effects, such as liver failure and perforation of the intestines.

When compared to other experimental treatments, using ipilimumab for melanoma treatments improved survival rates by just over 50 percent. Melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer, and only around 15 to 20 percent of people suffering from the condition survive for more than five years. Ipilimumab helps patients survive for around 10 months, instead of the 6.4 months experienced by patients taking other treatments. It is important to note that these results are in comparison with other experimental treatments.


Studies have also combined using ipilimumab for melanoma with other established treatments, and measured its effectiveness against the other treatments alone. Dacarbazine and ipilimumab have been studied to determine their effectiveness as a combination treatment. Results show that dacarbazine combined with a placebo leads to an average survival time of 9.1 months for patients suffering from melanoma. Ipilimumab combined with dacarbazine gives an average survival time of 11.2 months. This is a smaller increase in survival time than was found when the drug is compared with an experimental treatment.

The effectiveness of taking ipilimumab for melanoma is related to the drug’s primary function. It serves to reinvigorate the T-cells required to fight off melanoma. The cells usually have an antigen on the surface which basically stops them from working. Ipilimumab works against this antigen and thereby encourages the T-cells to start destroying cancerous cells.

Some potentially serious side effects have been associated with the use of ipilimumab for melanoma. These side effects can be fatal in some cases, but are often manageable with other medications. Ipilimumab can cause serious complications such as liver failure, paralysis, and perforation of the intestines. Patients taking ipilimumab should look out for symptoms such as yellowing of the skin, tea colored urine, and pain on the right side of the stomach. Blood in the patient’s stools, tingling and numbness in extremities, and stomach pain are other potentially serious symptoms.


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