Researchers have been investigating advanced skin cancer, malignant melanoma, treated with the so-called malignant melanoma. immunotherapy, a way to stimulate the body's immune system to attack cancer cells. The treatment should deceive the immune system to perceive the cancer cells as "foreign", much like a virus or bacterium.
945 patients were given doses of levels of levelumab or ipilimab, or both used for immunotherapy.
Doctors then looked at the survival rate of patients after five years and the results showed: 26% were given ipilimumab, 44% were given nivolumab, lived, and 52% were given live.
'It was an amazing surprise'
Ten years ago, only one in twenty patients diagnosed with advanced skin cancer lived five years. Most died within months, the BBC reports.
"It was an amazing surprise to see so much progress in such a short period of time," Professor James Larkin of the Royal Marsden Foundation NHS Trust told the television network.
He says it is now possible for 50% of patients diagnosed in stage four of malignant melanoma, when the cancer is over four millimeters thick and has metastases in both lymph nodes and other parts of the body, to live after five years if they undergo immunotherapy.
But immunotherapy does not come without side effects and can lead to fatigue, rash and diarrhea. Some side effects are so severe that patients, such as the person interviewed by the BBC, cannot complete treatment. However, the long-term effects on the immune system are said to be positive.
The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.