For Joe Maher, it started with a simple question from his doctor on a routine visit - is there anything else?
"I happened to look down on my ankle and purely by a fluke… I said, I've got a mole... kind of as a joke," said Joe.
But things turned serious, when he found out it was skin cancer.
After numerous treatments and clinical trials, Joe turned to something new... Zelboraf. It's a drug that targets a specific gene mutation that exists in about half of melanoma patients.
“Zelboraf was engineered to specifically target this gene and to shut it down, allowing the tumor to shrink,” said Dr. Vinh Chung, with Vanguard Skin Specialists.
Dr. Chung doesn't treat Joe, but he's been following the development of this drug closely. He says the results have been remarkable. But there are concerns, particularly about side effects. Patients on Zelboraf can experience nausea, fatigue, joint aches, skin rashes or even different types of skin cancer.
For Joe, dealing with the side effects is a small price to pay.
“It's a treatment, not a cure,” he said.
He's had stage four melanoma for over three years now and is doing well.
Dr. Chung says - it's important to add that this drug is for advanced cases of melanoma only. And he adds that most skin cancers, including melanoma, are almost always curable, if caught early.
“Early detection, early diagnosis, early treatment,” he said.
Since this drug was just approved last week, there's still no word on how insurance companies may cover this drug. But a six month supply will cost about 56-thousand dollars.
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