Melanoma: Revolutionary Cellular Therapy


DALLAS, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) — As we head into summer — a reminder to put on sunscreen before you head out the door. Latest stats from the American Cancer Society report that a hundred thousand people will be diagnosed with a melanoma this year. More than eight thousand will die from them. Now a revolutionary therapy is giving new hope to patients battling this deadly disease.

Steve Balzer spent day after day, year after year, outside working as an electric company lineman.  He says, “Next thing I know this lump’s popping up, it’s maybe as big as your thumb.”

Then he was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. For patients like Steve, surgery is the main option.

Doctor Kelly says, “Skin cancer has never responded to the older chemotherapies. In the last ten years, we’ve seen dramatic advances with immunotherapies, but unfortunately patients do progress after a period of time.”

Now oncologist Ronan Kelly is one of the first to use the newly FDA approved TIL cellular therapy for patients with metastatic melanoma.

Doctor Kelly explains, “It is a second-generation immunotherapy. It’s utilizing their own immune cells, which have proven themselves to be stronger than their other immune cells.”

TIL cells are in immune cells that look for and attack cancer cells. This new therapy helps make a patient’s TIL cells stronger, so they can beat cancer.

“What we do is, we take them from the tumor, we grow them in the laboratory, and we give them back as an infusion of their own strong immune cells to overwhelm the tumor.” says Doctor Kelly.

Doctor Kelly believes it may soon be the first treatment to treat other solid tumors that haven’t responded to traditional treatments like surgery, radiation and chemo.

To cut your risk of getting melanoma, be sure to use sunscreen when you head outdoors and re-apply it frequently. The CDC recommends an SPF of 15 or higher. Also try to stay out of the sun from 9am to 3pm when UV rays tend to be strongest. And if you have a lot of moles, or moles that have abnormal shapes or colors — that can put you at risk for melanoma. Also, if you have lighter skin color or have red or blond hair or blue or green eyes.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Chuck Bennethum, Editor, and Videographer.



REPORT #3196

BACKGROUND: In the United States, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, happens when cells that give skin its color known as melanocytes grow out of control. The American Cancer Society estimates 8,300 people will die of melanoma this year. Even though this cancer is less common, it can be deadly if not found or treated because it can spread throughout the body. There are different types: superficial spreading melanoma; a dark spot growing outward that gets bigger or changes shape, nodular melanoma; a dark brown, black, pink or red raised bump that grows deep into the skin, lentigo maligna melanoma; a slow growing abnormal shaped tan or brown spot on the face, ears or arms that receive the most sun, and acral lentiginous melanoma which can be located in shaded areas such as palms, soles of feet and under nails. Women normally develop melanoma on their legs and men on their trunk (chest and back). Other common skin cancers that are not melanoma are grouped as non-melanoma skin cancers and include basal cell cancer (BCC) and squamous cell cancer (SCC).


WARNING SIGNS: In the United States, a patient’s five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent if detected early and drops to 74 percent if it reaches the lymph nodes and 35 percent if it spreads to other organs. Most growths, spots or moles on the skin are harmless. Knowing the ABCDEs and Ugly Duckling signs may save your life by helping you spot it. A-Asymmetry: two sides don’t match; B-Border: notched, scalloped or uneven edges; C-Color: multiple colors; D-Diameter or Dark: size of pencil eraser or larger or darker than others; E-Evolving: change in color, shape, size or showing abnormal signs like crusting, itching or bleeding. Last is the Ugly Duckling: normal moles resemble one another but take note if one stands out in comparison. In fact, only 20-30 percent of existing moles develop melanomas, whereas 70 to 80 percent arise in normal skin. But remember not all melanomas follow the rules. You should examine yourself from head-to-toe once a month and … when it doubt, check it out with a dermatologist.


DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: A dermatologist will examine the skin for any signs. If a suspicious mole is found, a biopsy of tissue from the area will be taken using either a circular blade or scalpel and sent to a lab for testing. To help with this, a microscope looks at the melanoma to determine its thickness. Melanoma that is thinner may only require surgery to remove the cancer. However, if the melanoma is thicker more tests may be required to see if the cancer has spread. A sentinel node biopsy using an injected dye can be done to see if the melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes. If there’s concern that melanoma has spread beyond the skin to other parts of the body, tests such as x-ray, MRI, CT, and PET scan may be performed. Other factors to help determine if the cancer has spread: an ulceration over the area or the number of dividing cancer cells seen by a microscope. If melanoma is confirmed, the next step is to determine the extent of cancer, or stage. Melanoma stages range from 0 through 4. As the melanoma grows deeper, the numbers increase making treatment more difficult. By stage 4, the cancer has already spread to organs like the liver and lungs. Treatment of melanoma usually starts with surgery to remove the cancer but may include radiation and medications such as immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and chemotherapy.


* For More Information, Contact:             Matthew Olivolo, Media Relations Manager

Baylor Scott & White Health

Phone: 714-801-5213

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