A major breakthrough today for San Antonio's START Center for Cancer Care, one of the country's leading cancer research and testing practices, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
A drug to to treat the deadly and disfiguring type of cancer known as cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, which underwent initial Phase One testing at START, today was approved by the FDA for use on patients.
Dr. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Co-Director of Clinical Research at START, says the drug, which will be marketed as Libtayo, is part of a new type of cancer drugs called 'immunotherapy,' which program a body's immune function to attack cancer cells.
"This allow the body's immune system to identify and kill tumors," he said.
CSCC is the second leading cause of death among skin cancers in the United States, with an estimated 7,000 deaths annually.
In addition, Libtayo will help cure the horrendous disfiguring skin blisters that come with CSCC.
"The drug showed remarkable results in patients with CSCC who had exhausted conventional cancer treatment," Dr. Papadopoulos said. "It is truly an oncology breakthrough in which we are proud to have played an instrumental role."
It is the second breakthrough skin cancer therapy tested at START. The first, called Keytruda, is credited with placing the skin cancer suffered by former President Jimmy Carter into remission.
Dr. Papadopoulos said Libtayo has had both regressive and curative responses in patients.
"In the trial that was performed, some patients' cancer was essentially no evident after the end of treatment," he said.
Dr. Papadopoulos says the drug will be used for patients where more traditional forms of treatment, like radiation, have had no impact.
The approval of the drug by the FDA is also a major boost for San Antonio's cancer research facilities, as well as for the city's image as a global medical center.
"Thanks to brakthrough research that took place here at START, this treatment will now become standard-of-care for patients with this type of advanced skin cancer," he said. "Its another reason why San Antonio is ground zero in the world of cancer research."
IMAGES: START CENTER