Immunotherapy Replacing Chemotherapy in Melanoma Treatment

Chemotherapy could become a thing of the past for up to two thirds of cancer patients, as the federal government considers subsidising new immunotherapy treatments.

Immunotherapy treatments Optivo and Keytruda are already subsidised by the government for the treatment of patients with melanoma, lung cancer and kidney cancer. Seeking subsidisation is a slow process that has denied treatment to patients with other cancers who cannot afford therapy.

There is evidence that immune treatments are effective for many types of cancers, but the challenge is to speed up the process to get access for more patients as quickly as possible.

In some cancers, such as melanoma, immunotherapy treatments have completely replaced chemotherapy. These treatments are gradually moving in for other types of cancer, too, and it is hoped that other cancers can be predominantly treated with immunotherapy within the next two decades.

Immunotherapy has fewer negative effects than chemotherapy, which works by damaging molecules inside the cells. Immunotherapy, on the other hand, boosts the body’s own defence mechanisms to help the immune system attack cancer cells.

The subsidisation of immunotherapy drugs such as Optivo caps patient payments at less than $40 per prescription, costing the government $1.1billion. Without subsidisation, the drug costs around $130,000 a year for patients.

Read more about immunotherapy.


3AW Radio broadcast. (19 February 2018.) New cancer treatments could make chemotherapy a thing of the past. Retrieved from

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