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cross section of skin layers with a tiny soldier killing a melanoma with a sword

Melanoma, Finally Some Good News!

Sigh…it does get discouraging at times. When I read about another person with melanoma or a friend has it, or when I find a weird mole and have to see the doctor, I can feel overwhelmed. Are we in a losing battle? Is all of this online sharing, all these warnings, all these appointments, all these self-checks, and all these sunscreen purchases for naught? Well, apparently, not!

Good news for melanoma treatment advances

Some good news! There are advances in the treatments of melanoma that are showing great promise.1 According to research doctors at the Loma Linda University Cancer Center treatment advances that uses a patient’s own immune system are helping people who could not be saved even a few years ago. This treatment, called immunotherapy, is changing the way the medical profession researches and treats melanoma and other types of cancer. The new approach is providing effective therapies that “can treat any and all types of cancer.”1

Better survival rates

The result? Fewer and fewer cancer diagnoses are terminal. In melanoma alone “immunotherapy has raised five-year survival rates for patients with a non-operable recurrence from 10 percent or less to 80 percent or above, says Frank Howard IV, MD, PhD, who specializes at the Cancer Center in melanoma and unusual tumors.1

Engaging a person’s own immune system

The idea is to get a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells irrespective of other therapies. This is better for weakened patients who are unable to handle the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Without going into a ton of science, the basic premise is that these types of immunotherapies use a patient’s own immune system to organize certain cells and attack the cancer cells.

Future hopes

The future hope is that oncologists will be less likely to be worried with the beginnings of a patient’s cancer, but whether the cancer cells are able to be fought off by a patient’s immune system. These cancer cells have a “defective mismatch repair pathway”,1 which actually tags them so the immune system can find them more easily.

Killing cancer with a sword

These types of advances in understanding the science of healthy and cancerous cells is also leading to vaccines currently be used on a trial basis in humans. According to Dr. Mark Reeves from Loma Linda, “The double-edged sword is hoped to make cancer cells highly visible to the immune system while also magnifying the system’s cancer-killing power.”1

Support research

So, there’s a bit of good news, a double-edged sword in beating melanoma. That is much better than a butter knife! With all research and newly designed therapies, time will tell what is truly effective and the true impact of this important discovery. This is another reminder why it is important to support local, national, and international cancer research. Melanoma is a worldwide issue and required a global effort to rid the world of this scourge. I try to support our local cancer institute in Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Center in its Ride for Roswell fundraiser. Find a way to support the much-needed research that helps all of us.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.