20/01/2011 18:22 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Drug That Fights Deadliest Skin Cancer On The Horizon

Every year, as summer approaches, skincare experts come out in force to warn sunbathers about the dangers of too much sun exposure. And for very good reasons.

woman-sunbathing-skin-cancer Too much sun exposure is strongly linked with skin cancer. Photo: Getty

The most deadly form of skin cancer - malignant melanoma - is strongly linked to sun exposure. And rates of malignant melanoma, which kills 2,000 Brits every year (including more women than men) have quadrupled during the last 30 years.

But a new drug could dramatically change the lives of the 1,000 or so people a year in this country who are diagnosed with malignant melanoma and find their skin cancer has spread - something that's incredibly difficult to treat.

The drug - called RG7204 - is being tested at The Royal Marsden Hospital, and so far the results have been highly encouraging, especially as there have been little to no developments in malignant melanoma treatments since the 1970s.

The drug, which is taken in pill form, works on a faulty gene that's present in about half of malignant melanoma patients. This gene is thought to be responsible for the spread of cancer cells. But the new drug blocks its action, which stops cancer cells from growing.

Though the researchers haven't stated how much this could affect the life expectancy of a malignant melanoma patient, they have suggested that taking RG7204 might allow skin cancer patients to live significantly longer than those being treated with standard chemotherapy.

The researchers also hope the drug will become available to people with malignant melanoma later this year or early next year.

Avoiding too much sun exposure is the best defence against skin cancer. How do you protect yourself?

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