I was saddened to hear that James Rebhorn passed away Friday night. I had the privilege of meeting him in October at at Gala for the Melanoma Research Foundation. He was being honored that night and I gave a brief speech. He was so kind on his way out with his wife to stop by me and give me a big hug! Then we snapped this quick picture. I remember asking him how his battle was going and he just shrugged his shoulders and said so so...
When I read the news on Sunday it hit me a little hard. He was actually the first person with Melanoma I had physically met on this journey that has lost their battle. In reading more of his history, he had been battling Melanoma since 1992.
Part of what I talked about in my speech was the need for research and funding. Melanoma research has come so far in the 3 1/2 years since I was diagnosed, but there is still a long ways to go! There was an article that came out in the Wall Street Journal last night about how drug firms focus on Advanced Melanoma. I'm happy for this focus! The article starts out stating "Major pharmaceutical companies are racing to launch breakthrough drugs in the next 18 months to treat advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer."
I am lucky that I have gotten access to Merck's MK-3475 drug (their anti-PD1). And as I shared a few days ago, they are starting an Expanded Access Program to allow more patients the opportunity to try the drug. The hope with the advancement of these immunotherapies is that melanoma can be treated as more of a chronic illness than a terminal disease.
Will be interesting to see how things land in this year in the race for BMS, Merck, and others to get their PD1 to market first. Yervoy (which I took in 2012) was 4 doses at a cost of $120,000. PD1 is taken every 2 or 3 weeks and my trial is for 2+ years. I don't pay for the drug as part of the trial, but the WSJ article estimates the PD1 drugs could come at a cost of $240k/year! Yikes! I guess it's hard to put a price on a life saving drug?
Stay tuned! Lots of things going on in the world of Melanoma! but for now, this gal needs some rest!