Nightly News   |  June 04, 2012

New melanoma drug shows promise

Trametinib, a new drug for treating melanoma, is showing promise in clinical trials. NBC’s Robert Bazell reports.

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>> more encouraging news out of the convention of cancer specialists under way now in chicago. tonight, it concerns a new type of drug for melanoma. which can be very difficult to treat once it spreads beyond a skin lesion. our report tonight from our chief science correspondent, robert bazell .

>> reporter: pamela maddox, a retired teacher that loves to garden at 57 is quite healthy. two years ago she was close to death from advanced melanoma until he got an experimental drug that targets cancer genes.

>> like being given a second chance. you don't know houw ng this is going to last. hopefully a long term thing.

>> reporter: results at the cancer conference today, show her drushgs trametinib cut melanoma in 300 patients by 55%. also at the conference, a different drug that enhances immune response to melanoma and cancers showed promises results. both drugs will head to the fda for approval. in the wake of two drugs okayed for advanced melanoma.

>> now we have multiple new treatments we know can be game changers in a profound way.

>> reporter: doctors recognize the success stories like the increasing ability to fight advanced melanoma, they know there are big challenges fighting lung cancer , advanced breast and colon cancer . another challenge, a continuing shortage of many cancer drugs. while new drugs often cost $100,000 a year or more, the successful older drugs that many patients like 15-year-old rely on cost only hundreds and they remain in critically short supply.

>> these drugs that are in short supply are primarily drugs that are older, fairly cheap in terms of purchasing them and not much of a profit margin for the companies.

>> reporter: the fda has no authority to tell drug companies what to make. cancer doctors want legislation so the government can stem the shortages. robert bazell , nbc news, chicago.