Wonder Drug for Skin Cancer to be Given Free to Australians With Advanced Melanoma

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A "miracle drug" will be provided for Australia's cancer patients who are left with no options. According to reports, drug manufacturer Merck Sharp and Dohme will be giving the drugs for free to the "sickest" cancer patients.

Known as the MK-3475, the drug was found to have a positive response to about 50 per cent of patients who were diagnosed with advanced melanoma. The drug proved to be a more effective than the current treatment, Yervoy.

Former Lord Mayor of Melbourne and chairmain of the Australian Grand Prix Ron Walker is partly responsible after spearheading a campaign.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved the limited release of the "miracle" skin cancer drug just last week after hearing the pleas of cancer patients, doctors, Merck Sharp and Dohme and support groups.

The plan involves releasing the drug to a small number of patients with metastatic melanoma every month. Australian patients who will be given access to the drug are qualified to receive it if their melanoma has spread and surgery no longer helps.

Doctors have praised the MK-3475 as a "wonder drug" since it can reduce the tumours in more than half of the trial patients who were given high doses. The skin cancer drug works by blocking the cancer's ability to disguise itself and allowing the body's T cells to attack the cancer.

A skin cancer patient himself, Walker said the drug works. He said he was lucky to have no side effects from the drug.

According to Professor Grant McArthur from Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, drugs like the MK-3475 are changing the way doctors treat cancer. He said there were more than 1,000 patients in Australia in the advanced stages of melanoma. A great proportion of those patients will be eligible to take the free cancer drug.

In 2013, Walker had launched a campaign on behalf of an Australian father, Nick Auden, who moved his family to Denver in the U.S. to pursue Stage 4 melanoma treatment. He qualified for the drug's clinical trial but was ruled out because of a medical complication. Auden died in November 2013.

Professor McArthur said the cases of Walker and Auden only encourage the public to make treatments more accessible to cancer patients prior to formal regulation.

Mr Walker had lobbied for the limited release of the drug for Australian patients with the help Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Health Minister Peter Dutton. 

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