The FDA just approved a new treatment for a common form of skin cancer

  • The FDA just approved a new treatment for an advanced form of skin cancer.
  • The drug, Libtayo, is a checkpoint inhibitor, a kind of drug that’s part of a new class of cancer medications known as immunotherapy. It’s made by Regeneron and Sanofi.
  • It’s the first treatment ever approved for patients with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, the FDA said in a release Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration just approved a new treatment for a form of skin cancer.

The drug, Libtayo, is made by Regeneron and Sanofi, and it’s part of a new type of cancer treatment known as cancer immunotherapy. Immunotherapy harnesses the power of the immune system to help it identify and knock out cancerous cells.

There’s been a lot of success in one kind of immunotherapy called checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors were first approved to treat melanoma – having remarkable success in people like President Jimmy Carter – and have since gone on to tackle lung cancer and bladder cancer, among other types of cancer.

There have now been seven approved, six of which have to do with the proteins PD-1 (short for programmed cell death 1) and PD-L1, which are key in telling the body’s immune system to react to a cancer cell or not.

Libtayo is the first treatment ever approved for patients with advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, the FDA said in a release Friday. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer after basal cell cancer.

“This type of cancer can be difficult to treat effectively when it is advanced and it is important that we continue to bring new treatment options to patients,” FDA director Richard Pazdur said in a news release.

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