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The Associated Press June 5, 2011, 8:49AM ET

Studies find new drugs boost skin cancer survival

Doctors are reporting big gains against melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Two studies on novel drugs find they can extend survival dramatically.

An experimental drug, vemurafenib (vem-yoo-RAF'-eh-nib), helped so much that people getting a comparison drug were allowed to switch after just a few months. It targets a gene mutation found in half of all melanomas and is being developed by Roche's Genentech unit and Plexxikon Inc., part of Daiichi Sankyo.

The second study tested Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Yervoy (YER'-voy), a just-approved treatment for newly diagnosed melanoma patients. It nearly doubled the number who survived at least three years.

Results were reported Sunday at a cancer conference in Chicago.

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