Libby Kistler: “I’m Still Here”
Statistically, Libby Kistler shouldn’t be here. She was diagnosed with Stage IIIB melanoma in 2005, before treatment for late-stage melanoma was transformed by immuno- and targeted therapies in 2011.
Immunotherapy & Chemotherapy – Two Different Approaches
We’ve all seen the movie where the heroic cancer patient bravely moves through treatment as she deals with nausea, hair loss, and other side effects. For many cancer patients this picture is true, however imprecise. Hollywood has conditioned us to equate cancer treatment with chemotherapy. Twenty years ago this narrative was more or less accurate, but in a world where immunotherapies and other new treatments are increasingly being used, this narrative isn’t keeping up with today’s reality. For some people with melanoma, this stuck-in-the-past narrative may even be deadly.
What’s Next in Melanoma Treatment?
Dr. Douglas Johnson, MRA Young Investigator awardee and Assistant Professor of Medicine and Melanoma Clinical Director at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, outlines three broad areas of current and future melanoma research.
Leveraged Finance Community Comes Together to Fight Melanoma
On May 23, 2018 more than one thousand professionals from the leveraged finance and finance community at-large will come together in the fight against melanoma for the seventh annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma (LFFM) benefit and cocktail party. The event, held each year in the Rockefeller Center’s summer garden, has raised over $8.6 million to advance the Melanoma Research Alliance’s global research programs.
Melanoma is Determined, So is Eric
After 7 clinical trials, 8 surgeries, and more infusions than he can count --- Eric Martin is still here, seven years after being diagnosed with melanoma. He has had ups and downs and has tried practically every FDA-approved therapy for melanoma – but the crux of this story, which all readers need to understand, is that Eric’s fight isn’t yet finished. That’s because unlike many of the stories featured by MRA – Eric is still searching for his silver bullet and the elusive letters N.E.D. (no evidence of disease). He’s got big plans and melanoma isn’t going to get in the way. In short, Eric is a melanoma warrior.
Finding the Magic Formula
Modern immunotherapy, with melanoma as its poster child, is changing the way we treat cancer - for good. But, so far at least, it isn't helping everyone. Many scientists believe that there isn't a single silver bullet to unleash the awesome power of our immune systems - and instead - that the future of oncology is finding just the right combination of therapies that push and pull from different directions to multiply and enhance each other's effectiveness.
"I Thought I Knew Myself, but I Missed It."
Jim can’t say enough about his dermatologist who was able to detect his melanoma early enough so that more invasive treatment wasn’t necessary. “I see myself every day. I thought I knew myself, but I missed it. I see her twice a year, and those visits are quick, but she didn’t miss it. She was all over it.” The vigilance of his dermatologist may have saved Jim’s life.
The Hidden Costs of Cancer
The National Cancer Institute estimates that between 33 and 80% of cancer survivors exhaust their savings to finance their medical expenses. Up to three percent of survivors file for bankruptcy, 260 times more frequently than similar households not affected by cancer. Not only is this financially devastating for families, this hardship was the strongest predictor of the quality of life for cancer survivors.
The Microbiome, is it the Deciding Factor for Immunotherapy Success?
It's been nearly seven years since the first FDA-approved checkpoint inhibitor for melanoma came on the market and doctors, researchers, and patients all keep asking: "who is most likely to benefit from immunotherapy? How can we make this work for more people?" Thankfully, the answer may be closer than we thought and the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other bugs - which make up our microbiome - may have something to say about it.
Creating a New Generation of Melanoma Models
We all can remember the eruption that happened when our 1st grade science teacher combined vinegar and baking soda together to represent a volcano. In some ways, this is just like experiments that take place every day in the search for better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for melanoma. In both instances, the researcher uses models to represent systems and phenomena that would otherwise be difficult or unethical to touch, see, or manipulate. Models are powerful things and we use them every day to make things easier to understand. In science, modeling is an essential component of our scientific process.