Posts tagged ‘melanoma’
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.”
“Skin cancer” was pretty much the last thing on the mind of a healthy, outdoorsy kid like Tanner Harbin.
“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
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
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 www.cityofhope.org/skin-cancer.
Sources: American Cancer Society and Skin Cancer Foundation
Feel free to reproduce our skin cancer infographic for health and education purposes. Download the PDF.
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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.
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
Skin cancer rates have been on the rise for years. On Tuesday, the U.S. surgeon general said: Enough.
In issuing the first-ever Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer, acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak described skin cancer as a “major public health problem” that requires action by all segments of society.
Nearly 5 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancer each year, the report said, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with annual treatment costs reaching an estimated $8.1 billion. It’s also one of the most preventable cancers.
Everyone has a role to play in the skin cancer prevention effort, Lushniak stressed, saying that governments across the board (not just federal and state, but also tribal, local and territorial) need to be partners with business, health care and education leaders; community, nonprofit and faith-based organizations; and of course individuals and families.
He’ll find little argument from skin cancer experts, including City of Hope dermatologist Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D. She’s seen the profound impact of skin cancer on society and the alarming rise in skin cancer rates among young people. » Continue Reading
Sunscreen – we know it’s essential in reducing the risk of skin cancer, but we skimp on it, forget to reapply it or forgo it altogether before hitting the outdoors. That helps explains our skin cancer numbers.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with more than 3.5 million people diagnosed with basal and squamous cell skin cancer each year. Melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, accounts for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer.
With summer just around the corner – and an increased likelihood of excessive sun exposure – now’s the perfect time to brush up on sun safety.
City of Hope surgical oncologist Vijay Trisal, M.D., who helps formulate melanoma treatment guidelines both nationally and internationally, shares some sunscreen tips to help you get the best protection against the sun. » Continue Reading