A pill helped significantly reduce tumours in the majority of advanced skin cancer patients in a study, researchers have said.
Patients who took part in the US study all suffered from malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of the cancer, which had begun to spread.
Some 80% of patients who took the pill as part of the study saw their tumours significantly shrink in size.
Most had mutations in the BRAF gene which occur in 40% to 60% of patients with the disease.
The drug, PLX4032, inhibits faulty BRAF and prevents it stimulating the cancer.
Lead researcher Dr Paul Chapman, from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said: “We have seen many tumours shrink rapidly, and in some patients, quality of life improved dramatically.
“This is the beginning of personalised medicine in melanoma.”
A total of 87 patients took part in the Phase II study and were treated with increasing doses of PLX4032.
Two complete and 24 partial responses were seen among the 32 patients treated with a full dose of the drug.
Tumour shrinkage was seen at all cancer sites, including the liver, small bowel and bone.
Currently 16 individuals are still taking part in the trial, whose findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr Chapman is now heading a larger Phase III patient study.
Copyright Press Association 2010