Maintaining the Pace of Melanoma Innovation in the Era of an Evolving Standard of Care
By Louise M. Perkins, Ph.D., MRA Chief Science Officer | 10 August 2018 In Science, Treatment
There is no doubt that treatments for metastatic melanoma have changed dramatically in the decade since MRA’s founding in 2007. How do we keep up the momentum?
Wiser & Stronger – Life after Metastatic Melanoma
For Derrick, it all started with headaches. For the first time in his life, this otherwise perfectly healthy father of two, knew something was wrong.
Uveal ‘Clusters’ in Auburn, AL and Huntersville, NC
When we talk about melanoma, it’s easy to forget that cutaneous – the most common variety that forms on the skin – isn’t the only game in town. Uveal represents about 5% of all melanomas diagnosed each year. So, when dozens of people from two towns in North Carolina and Alabama were diagnosed with the rare cancer alarm bells sounded.
We’ve Teamed Up with the American Cancer Society
American Cancer Society and Melanoma Research Alliance have united to fund lifesaving research aimed at reducing side effects and improving outcomes for patients treated with immunotherapy.
Tackling Brain Metastases
Brain metastases (mets) are a frequent and often deadly problem in patients with advanced melanoma. Nearly 40% of patients with metastatic melanoma have brain mets at diagnosis, with an average survival of only 4 months, suggesting a crucial need for treatments that can rid the brain of these tumors1,2. But new cancer treatments are rarely tested in patients with active brain mets. This is largely due to concerns about whether these patients will have side effects unique to brain mets, and poorer outcomes that may negatively weigh against otherwise positive clinical benefits. Another potential concern is whether the drugs will even penetrate the brain, which has a fortress-like ability to keep substances from entering it.
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.
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.
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