Today’s announcement of early signs of successful trial results in the treatment of melanomas at the world’s largest cancer conference in Chicago has been welcomed by the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team as a significant breakthrough.

Melanomas are skin cancers that can spread to other parts of the body and which, if caught early enough, can often be removed by cutting them away. Skin cancers are, however, on the increase. There are now four times as many cases each year than there were 30 years ago. Part of this increase may be because early stage diagnosis has improved but many believe that the increase is linked to how much more time people spend in the sun.

For those whose melanoma is diagnosed at an early stage, the prognosis is generally good but, as with all cancers, the prognosis worsens the later the disease is detected. Once the melanoma has advanced and affects other areas of the body, the prognosis is poor.

Now two new drugs are being hailed by some cancer experts as heralding a shift in melanoma treatment. Results have been published indicating that early testing in patients with advanced melanoma have produced very significant results in extending average life expectancy. One patient with melanoma that had spread to his lung was cleared after three courses of infusions of the combined drugs. The two drugs work slightly differently, one on its own, in infusion and the other in combination with a licensed immunotherapy drug.

There is still much research to be done and today's reports are only very early indications of possible breakthroughs but, nevertheless, represent a significant potential advance in skin cancer treatment. Widespread trials are now underway at many hospitals across the UK but the results are likely to take another year.