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.
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.
FDA Approves Nivolumab in Adjuvant Setting - Is it a Big Deal?
By Louise M. Perkins, Ph.D., MRA Chief Science Officer | 21 December 2017 In News, Science, Treatment
The US FDA approved the use of nivolumab (Opdivo) in the adjuvant setting on December 20, 2017. This means that nivolumab may be used to treat melanoma patients with lymph node involvement or metastatic disease after complete surgical resection to reduce the risk of their disease recurring.
Introducing Clinical Trial Navigator: Start Searching Today
At MRA, we know that advancing science is our best bet in the fight against melanoma. More than 87,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and with these numbers on the rise, researchers are working harder than ever to find new and better treatment options. In fact, there are over 300 clinical trials happening in melanoma right now.
‘Practice Changing’ Results Hint at New Adjuvant Therapy Treatment Options
By Louise M. Perkins, Ph.D., MRA Chief Science Officer | 30 September 2017 In Treatment
Adjuvant treatment is used in addition to tumor removal e.g. via surgery or radiotherapy to help delay or prevent the recurrence of melanoma. It is often recommended for high-risk melanoma (defined as melanoma deeper or thicker than 4mm thick at the primary site or involves nearby lymph nodes). Approved adjuvant therapies in melanoma include interferon and, more recently, ipilimumab. But neither of these approaches is wholly satisfying since relatively few patients appear to benefit and side-effects are a major factor.
A Mother’s Perspective: New Options for Pediatric Melanoma
When Cheryl Trocke’s nine-year old son Graham was diagnosed with melanoma four years ago, she quickly learned that when it comes to kids, there were no great treatment options and that care can vary greatly based on where your child is treated. After surgically removing the primary tumor, Graham’s doctors suggested a treatment plan of ‘wait and see.’
Doubling Down: Brandon Barniea Bets Big on Combination Therapy
Brandon Barniea didn’t believe he needed to visit doctors. The athletic 35-year-old had always been healthy – even when his wife and two kids were sick at home with the flu, he would miraculously avoid falling ill. So, when he found what felt like “beads” in his neck, reality came crashing in; following a biopsy, he was diagnosed first with stage III melanoma in August 2015 and later that year it progressed to stage IV.