Dedicated research offers hope for people with melanoma. Patients and doctors are paying close attention to immunotherapy.
Research confirms the immune system is pivotal in cancer treatment. But researchers are excited about immunotherapy, according to Dr. Ryan Fields, Associate Professor of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine.
“We have drugs that kind of allow your own body to fight your cancer for you. Although there are side effects to these drugs, they’re very different than typical chemotherapy,” Fields said. “They are usually much better tolerated. They are usually much better tolerated. And when they work, they tend to work for very long periods of time.”
Instead of attacking the cancer with chemotherapy and radiation, immunotherapy empowers the patient’s immune system to battle the cancer.
Three years ago, Greg Kiger found out he had melanoma. He said his 14-month immunotherapy regimen was completed without a hitch.
“I had surgery first and then I had immunotherapy second. And I’ve had a year and half of clean scans and the doctors say I’m on my way to earning a complete remission merit badge. That’s a merit badge I very much want,” Kiger said.
Growing up, Kiger said he never considered a person could get too much sun.
“If I could go back in time in my childhood and talk to the kid who is me riding his bike without a shirt all day, getting sunburn on the shoulder and peeling, that was just part of summer back then,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be now.”
Dr. David Chen, an instructor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, studies cancer genetics.
“Melanoma tends to have a much more aggressive course then the other kind of common skin cancers,” Chen said. “Melanoma comes from the pigment cells in the skin. And these types of cancer have a much higher propensity to spread to the rest of the body.”
Research and public awareness can reduce the risk of melanoma. That’s why a group of volunteers sponsors the annual Miles Against Melanoma 5k Run and Family Event. The event is June 17 at Lake Park in St. Peters, Missouri. The race starts at 6 p.m., a time when the sun's intensity starts to fade.
For information about research at Siteman Cancer Center, click here.