Melanoma – Medical Treatments

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 9,525
    Tim Turnham, Ph.D., of the Melanoma Research Foundation describes medical treatments available for melanoma patients.

    Tim Turnham: Hi! I am Tim Turnham with the Melanoma Research Foundation. Today I am talking about Melanoma, and now I want to focus on how Melanoma is treated.

    Many times Melanoma is caught when it is still on the surface of the skin. In this case, simply surgery is enough to treat it. If the Melanoma has grown deeper into the skin however, your doctor may want to be sure that it hasn't spread into the lymph nodes. This is done through a procedure known as Sentinel Node Biopsy. In this procedure a doctor injects dye into the side of the tumor. That dye migrates to the lymph node that serves as a drainage point for the area around the tumor side. This is the Sentinel Lymph Node.

    Dr. Lynn Schuchter: So let's say Melanoma was diagnosed on the arm, then a blue dye and a radioactive tracer would be injected into the arm, and then the surgeon takes a Geiger Counter essentially and looks for the highest area of radiation in this region, makes a small incision where the hotspot is, and literally looks for the blue lymph node. Tim Turnham: It is removed and sent to a pathologist to determine if the Melanoma has spread to the lymph system. If the Sentinel Lymph Node has Melanoma cells in it, it is common to have all the other nodes that are connected to that one removed through surgery. Some patients will also have additional treatments to try to prevent recurrence.

    Kevin Stenstrom: Once I had recurrence in 2006 and 2007, I then went back to National Institute of Health and underwent for six month something called Interleukin-2. Interleukin-2 is an Immunotherapy treatment. So unlike Chemotherapy, where chemo tries to kill all the cells in your body and attack the cancer that way, Immunotherapy, what that does is try to excite your immune system to recognize the cancer and kill it off that way. Interleukin-2 has about 10% to 15% success rate in Melanoma patients. I was one of the lucky ones, that actually worked for me and reduced my tumor by 90% and I have been stable since 2007.

    Tim Turnham: In its most advanced stage, Melanoma has spread to other organs in the body. At this point, the treatment options are limited. Most chemotherapy treatments used in other cancers don't work in Melanoma, so very few treatments are approved for use in this cancer. Most doctors agree that the best choice is to find and enroll in a clinical trial that is appropriate to your situation. Some very promising trials are active right now. And in many cases, are showing better results than other treatments that are available. Dr. Lynn Schuchter: The way we advance the field and to get access to some of these new and exciting therapies is to enroll on a clinical trial and I think it's really important for every patient at every stage of their Melanoma to ask their doctor, is there is a clinical trail available for me, would you suggest that I seek another opinion, but the first question should be, are there any clinical trials out there for me and should I peruse on a clinical trial for my diagnosis of Melanoma? And that is appropriate at every stage of Melanoma and every time there is a change in the status of Melanoma to re-ask that question; is there something new, is there a new opportunity for clinical trial? Tim Turnham: These trials include studying compounds that make the immune system better able to attack the cancer cells, looking for ways to shutdown mechanisms in tumor cells that are causing them to grow and divide out of control, or preventing the formation of blood vessels around the tumor, essentially, starving the malignant cells and much more. This is an exciting time for Melanoma and the field is changing quickly. For up-to-date information on trials, go to Melanoma.

    org. If you want to learn more, check out our other videos about Melanoma, including lifestyle changes you need to implement after being diagnosed.