Two major milestones for ground-breaking melanoma immunotherapies bring a hopeful beginning for 2015

Yervoy moves another step towards being available for newly diagnosed Canadian patients and new treatment Opdivo receives FDA approval

VANCOUVER (January 6, 2015) – 2015 is starting with good news and hope for melanoma patients thanks to two major milestones for ground-breaking melanoma immunotherapies. The Save Your Skin Foundation (SYSF) is very pleased to learn that a new treatment, Opdivo (nivolumab), has been given its first approval in the United States to treat advanced melanoma in patients who have not responded to other treatments. At the same time, the original melanoma immunotherapy, Yervoy (ipilimumab), has moved along another step in the process of becoming available as a first treatment for newly diagnosed Canadian patients.

Health Canada approved Yervoy for first line use earlier this year. The pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (pCODR), has now issued a positive recommendation for provinces to pay for Yervoy for newly diagnosed advanced melanoma patients. Until now, patients have had to try and fail on older treatments before governments would pay for Yervoy.

“Being able to try an immunotherapy such as Yervoy right after diagnosis is a big step forward for patients,” added Kathy Barnard. “The earlier patients can try the new therapies, the greater the chances that they will be strong enough for the treatment to be effective. We hope provinces will now move quickly to accept the pCODR recommendation to make Yervoy available for newly diagnosed advanced melanoma patients. Every melanoma patient should have an equal chance to survive.”

The latest treatment, Opdivo, like Yervoy, is also an immunotherapy, meaning it works by stimulating the body’s own immune system to fight and kill cancer cells. However, Opdivo stimulates the immune system in a different way than Yervoy. This is what makes it so promising for those patients who won’t respond to Yervoy or other immunotherapies or when those treatments no longer work. SYSF is very hopeful that the FDA approval means that Opdivo will soon be approved in Canada.

“This is wonderful news for people with advanced melanoma and their families because it offers additional hope in dealing with this disease. Just years ago, patients were surviving on average six months. Today the word survivorship is a reality; it’s truly amazing.” said Kathy Barnard, Save Your Skin Foundation President and Founder and an 11-year survivor of melanoma thanks to participating in a clinical trial for Yervoy. “Melanoma treatment has evolved so dramatically over the past few years. The new treatments literally are giving melanoma patients a chance to live and survive. I know because I’m living proof of it.”

About Melanoma in Canada
Every year, thousands of Canadians are diagnosed with melanoma, with the incidence of the disease increasing faster than that of any other cancer. Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) located in the skin. One in 74 men and 1 in 90 women are expected to develop melanoma during their lifetime. Melanoma is clearly visible on the skin, and 90 per cent of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV light, including tanning beds.

About the Save Your Skin Foundation
The Save Your Skin Foundation is a Canadian not-for-profit foundation. Through events and other initiatives, the Foundation focuses on: raising funds for education and awareness, providing emotional and financial support to those dealing with melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, and on supporting the ongoing research and treatment of skin cancer – especially melanoma. For more information, please visit

Media Contact:
Madelynn Festing