Posts tagged ‘melanoma’

What you need to know about melanoma and other skin cancers (w/PODCAST)

July 4, 2015 | by
skin cancer

Hans Schoellhammer is the assistant clinical professor of surgical oncology at City of Hope ǀ Antelope Valley. Here, he discusses the risk factors for skin cancer.

City of Hope is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer and precancerous conditions. Our multidisciplinary team of health care professionals takes an integrated approach to treating this disease by combining the latest research findings with outstanding patient care.

In this podcast, Hans Schoellhammer, M.D., surgical oncologist at City of Hope, discusses ways to avoid skin cancer. He also explains the warning signs of skin cancer, why skin cancers are on the rise and the risk factors for skin cancer.



For other interviews with City of Hope experts,  go to our list of City of Hope podcasts.


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

Purging pancreatic cancer with bacteria-based immunotherapy

July 1, 2015 | by
pancreatic cancer

City of Hope researchers have identified a promising new strategy: a bacterial-based therapy that homes to tumors and provokes an incredibly effective tumor-killing response.

The outlook and length of survival has not changed much in the past 25 years for patients suffering from an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). These patients still have few options for therapy; currently available therapies are generally toxic and do not increase survival by more than a few months.

Now, City of Hope researchers have identified a promising new strategy: a bacterial-based therapy that homes to tumors and provokes an extremely effective tumor-killing response.

In a study that appears in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, published by the American Association for Cancer Research, they report that the therapy frequently triggered the complete regression of pancreatic tumors and significantly extended survival in preclinical mouse studies. The study was led by Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at City of Hope, who believes that this method can be used to treat a variety of cancers that share similar features to PDAC.

Bacteria-based therapies have been used to treat solid tumors for decades and are commonly used to treat bladder cancer. Typically, an attenuated (i.e. weakened) form of the microbe is used as the therapy itself, or as a delivery vector to generate anti-tumor responses confined only to the cancer site. » Continue Reading

Herpes virus to treat melanoma? Skin cancer expert offers perspective

June 1, 2015 | by
melanoma and the herpes virus

A modified herpes virus has potential in the treatment of melanoma. But treatment isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

Cancer researchers have long explored the potential of modified viruses, such as pox, parvo and coxsackie, in treating the disease. Now headlines are suggesting that this potential may have been realized.

Initial findings published in the Journal of Oncology on May 26 show that a genetically engineered herpes virus, known as T-VEC, could be especially beneficial for patients with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Specifically, the virus is showing the ability to kill cancer cells and stop tumors from growing.

This power comes from the fact that viruses, unlike chemotherapy, have the ability to target the cancer cells directly, activating the immune system to fight cancer without collateral damage to healthy cells.

In the latest study, researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research, London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust found that out of 436 patients with aggressive Stage 3 or Stage 4 malignant melanoma included in the trial, 16 percent had a response rate that lasted for more than six months.

The findings have been widely heralded. Said the Washington Post: “In a few months time, those suffering from skin cancer may find an unlikely hero in their treatment regimen: herpes. A modified version of the Herpes Simplex 1 virus (known for causing cold sores and some cases of genital herpes) called T-Vec has successfully been used to treat melanoma in a phase III clinical trial. That means it’s just waiting for a final okay from the FDA before the Amgen product can hit the market.”

Amid the enthusiasm, much of it warranted, Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in dermatology at City of Hope, urges perspective.  » Continue Reading

23-year-old gave scant thought to skin cancer, then he noticed dark mole

May 25, 2015 | by

“Skin cancer” was pretty much the last thing on the mind of a healthy, outdoorsy kid like Tanner Harbin.

Tanner Harbin, skin cancer patient

College student and skin cancer patient Tanner Harbin now gives much more thought to sun safety. That wasn’t the case before his diagnosis with a rare form of cancer.

“I like hockey – playing it and watching it,” the 23-year-old from San Dimas said. “I like to go off-roading with my dad – we have a Jeep and we have a cabin up in Big Bear, so we go up there and do stuff like that.”

When he’s not palling around with his dad, Harbin works at an Ace Hardware and goes to Mt. San Antonio College, where he’s studying to become a welder. “I’m pretty much always at work or at school,” he said.

Other than a bout with teen acne, Harbin had never given a lot of thought to the health of his skin. “I don’t think most people my age ever even think of going to the dermatologist,” he said. “They don’t even think about using sunblock. They just stand out there getting burned. They go to tanning booths. My sister used to do that. She stopped when I started having problems with my skin.”

Those “problems” began with a dark black mole Harbin first noticed on his back last December. » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Surgeon Laleh Melstrom on rewards of fighting melanoma

May 24, 2015 | by
Laleh Melstrom, M.D. , the newest skin cancer surgeon at City of Hope.

Meet Laleh Melstrom, an expert in  surgery for skin cancer.

Skin cancer is an enticing field to be in these days. Just ask Laleh Melstrom, M.D. M.S., one of City of Hope’s newest surgeons. “In the last few years, melanoma has been the type of cancer that has really shown the most progress in terms of treatments,” Melstrom said. “It’s the one cancer in 2015 that is probably the most exciting in terms of survival.”

The new melanoma treatments that have recently emerged “delay recurrences and progression,” said Melstrom, an assistant clinical professor of surgery who joined City of Hope in March from a similar role at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “And there are more forthcoming. They’re targeting aspects of the immune system to stimulate its response to melanoma” – the most deadly form of skin cancer.

However, although melanoma has seen “a lot of progress in the development of targeted therapies to treat for systemic disease, early surgical intervention remains the most effective strategy for preventing metastatic disease and prolonging survival,” Melstrom said.

Melstrom enjoys the challenges that skin cancer presents. “There are a multitude of treatment options for almost every cancer,” she said. “And tailoring the plan for each individual and their family and their value system is what makes this an art and not just a technical practice. The modalities of treatment cross all different disciplines. To be knowledgeable about all the different practices, as well as the person’s value system, really makes it a rewarding job.”

» Continue Reading

Skin cancer treatment: Research combined with a comprehensive approach

May 23, 2015 | by

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States today, and its incidence is on the rise. Forty to 50 percent of light-skinned Americans who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once in their lives.

skin cancer treatment

Skin cancer treatment is improving, especially for melanoma (shown here). Clinical trials and ongoing research have fueled the advances.

Most of these skin cancers – about 3.5 million cases – are the basal cell and squamous cell types, which are highly treatable if caught early. “A lot of people get basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but not a lot of people die of them,” said City of Hope board-certified skin cancer surgeon Laleh Melstrom, M.D., of the lesions that typically appear on the face, the tops of the ears and the scalp.

Added City of Hope dermatologist and assistant professor Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D.: “For most small, nonmelanoma skin cancers, surgical incision is curative 95 percent to 99 percent of the time.”

In contrast, there are just 79,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States each year – and 10,000 deaths.

Despite its relative rarity compared to these other forms of skin cancer, melanoma makes up about 50 to 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths, according to Melstrom. “Melanoma has seen a lot of progress in the development of targeted therapies to treat for systemic disease, but early surgical intervention remains the most effective strategy for preventing metastatic disease and prolonging survival,” she said.

If doctors can catch it at Stage 1, “melanoma has a five-year-survival rate approaching 98 percent,” Melstrom said, adding that “the vast majority of melanomas are early stage and curable. Just 12 percent or so present late and have a mortality risk.”

But, with leading-edge research and skin cancer treatment, the City of Hope skin-cancer team is at the forefront of the attack on even later stages of this most-deadly form of skin cancer. » Continue Reading

Meet our doctors: Surgical oncologist Hans Schoellhammer on skin cancer

May 17, 2015 | by

In the U.S., there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate and lung, according to the American Cancer Society. Each year, 5 million people are treated for skin cancer. Here, Hans Schoellhammer, M.D., assistant clinical professor at City of Hope | Antelope Valley community practice site, shares his tips on skin cancer prevention, plus information on new skin cancer treatments.

Surgical Oncologist Hans Schoellhammer

Hans Schoellhammer of City of Hope | Antelope Valley discusses skin cancer treatments and awareness.

What are the latest treatments, advancements and research involving skin cancer, specifically melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer?

This is a very exciting time in melanoma research and treatment. Surgery to remove the primary melanoma and to stage nearby lymph nodes with a sentinel lymph node biopsy is still the main treatment, but the Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a number of new medications. These drugs help treat melanoma that is too locally advanced to be removed by surgery or that has metastasized to other parts of the body.

Some of these new medications, such as ipilimumab or nivolumab, allow our own body’s immune system cells to be more active, helping them attack and destroy melanoma cells. Other medications, such as vemurafenib, are targeted therapies that affect melanoma cells that have specific mutations, again leading to melanoma regression and increased overall survival. » Continue Reading

Protect your family from the sun: 5 tips from a skin cancer expert

May 12, 2015 | by
children and skin cancer risk

Skin cancer expert Jae Jung, assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at City of Hope, shares her own tips on how to protect children from the sun.

Attention, parents! Only a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s ultimate risk of skin cancer. Further, some studies suggest that ultraviolet (UV) exposure before the age of 10 is the most important factor for melanoma risk.

Here skin cancer expert Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at City of Hope, shares her own tips on how to protect children from the sun – without putting a damper on a normal, fun childhood.

1. Keep infants out of the sun, and dress them in sun-protective clothing.

“For small babies 6  months and younger, I favor protective clothing and sun avoidance,” Jung said. For small children, Jung recommends physical sun blocks containing zinc and titanium, and sensitive skin formulas, which have minimal chemical ingredients.

2. Set a timer to help remind you to reapply sunscreen when spending time outdoors.

“Everyone is usually good about putting sunscreen on before going out, but it needs to be applied every 60 to 90 minutes, which is hard when kids are running around having fun,” Jung said. “I tell patients to set a timer to help them to remember to reapply.”

» Continue Reading

Melanoma: The ABCDE guide to potentially cancerous moles

May 1, 2015 | by

To detect melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, at its earliest, most treatable stage, conduct a head-to-toe skin self-examination once a month to check for suspicious moles.


ABCDE Guide for Skin Cancer Self-exam for cancerous moles

Unusual, or atypical, moles can ultimately develop into skin cancer. Here is the ABCDE guide to potentially cancerous moles:

A = Asymmetry
The two halves of the mole do not match when you draw a line through the middle.

B = Border
The mole has an uneven border.

C = Color
The mole has multiple shades of tan, brown or black or has unusual colors such as red, purple or blue.

D = Diameter
The mole is larger than 6mm in diameter (or the size of a pencil eraser).

E = Evolution
The mole has changed in size, shape or color over time.

If you have a suspicious mole, contact your primary care doctor or a dermatologist for further evaluation. For more information about melanoma and other types of skin cancer, visit

Sources: American Cancer Society and Skin Cancer Foundation


Feel free to reproduce our skin cancer infographic for health and education purposes. Download the PDF.


Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

Meet our doctors: Dermatologist Jae Jung on preventing melanoma

August 23, 2014 | by

With Labor Day just around the corner, summer is on its way out. But just because summertime is ending doesn’t mean we can skip sunscreen. Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is needed all year round. Exposure to UV radiation — whether from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds — increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.


Jae Jung says melanoma is easily treated when caught at the earliest stages.

Here, Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in dermatology at City of Hope, shares simple prevention tips to lower the risk of melanoma. She also explains that the disease is almost always curable if detected and treated in its earliest stages.

What is melanoma and what causes it?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It arises from melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in our skin. They are most common in sun-exposed areas of the skin, but can arise anywhere including under the fingernails, oral or genital mucosa, and eyes.

Melanoma is usually caused by too much UV exposure, either from natural sun or in tanning booths. Use of tanning beds can increase your risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Patients with fair skin, light hair and eyes, have a propensity to sunburn and are at higher risk of developing melanoma. Patients with many moles (greater than 50), atypical moles, and a family history of melanoma are also at increased risk. » Continue Reading