There is a lot of interesting research going on with melanoma (and cancer in general) these days. Scientists have made BIG leaps and bounds toward finding a cure that will have the least damaging side effects for patients. Below is a collection of articles that I have run across in the past two years while attempting to learn all that I can about my diagnosis.

Some you’ll find very helpful… and others… well… they just HAD to be shared!

If you are currently on, have been on, or will be treated with immunotheraputic drugs (Ipi, Pembro, Nivo…) please take note of some things you’ll want to be sure to report to your oncologist. ——

Cancer immunotherapy-induced rheumatic diseases emerge as new clinical entities

“Patients with rheumatic IRAE differ from patients with traditional rheumatic disease in several important ways. First, it appears that their IRAEs do not behave identically to the corresponding classic rheumatic disease. Observations to date show a lack of the traditional autoantibodies associated with RA and Sjogren’s syndrome in most patients with ICI-induced inflammatory arthritis and sicca syndrome, respectively.13 Also, the steroid requirements of therapy for control may be much higher than typically required to manage ‘classic’ inflammatory arthritis.13 Importantly, all patients with rheumatic IRAE have or recently had advanced stage cancer, so there would be concerns about using immunosuppression in them.”

Read the full article here

‘Moles don’t belong in the sun’: Genetic tests show how moles turn into melanoma

Using a genetic test, researchers have found a new way to tell if a suspicious-looking mole is about to turn malignant.

And they’ve confirmed that people who have moles should not let the sun get on them. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun directly causes the genetic mutations that finally tip a mole over into becoming melanoma, they report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Ultraviolet radiation turns moles into melanoma,” said Dr. Boris Bastian of the University of California San Francisco, a pathologist who helped lead the study.

“Moles don’t belong in the sun.”

Read the full article here

Bananas May Help Detect, Cure Skin Cancer

The black spots on old banana peels may unlock a faster, easier diagnosis of human skin cancer, boosting survival chances, scientists said.

The same enzyme is present in human skin, and in greater quantities in people suffering from melanoma — a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

Read the full article here

Diamonds could help detect cancer early

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study details how a nanoscale, synthetic version of diamonds – called nanodiamonds – can highlight the presence of early-stage cancers in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Numerous studies have investigated the use of nanodiamonds for targeted cancer treatment. In 2011, for example, Medical News Today reported on how nanodiamonds may be effective in the treatment of chemotherapy-resistant liver and breast cancers.

Ranging around 4-5 nanometers in diameter, nanodiamonds are broadly nontoxic, nonreactive and can carry a wide range of drug compounds, making them an ideal candidate for targeted drug delivery.

However, coauthor Prof. David Reilly, from the School of Physics at the University of Sydney in Australia, and colleagues set out to investigate whether nanodiamonds may also be useful for diagnosis of early-stage cancers.

“We thought we could build on these nontoxic properties realizing that diamonds have magnetic characteristics enabling them to act as beacons in MRIs,” explains Prof. Reilly.

Read the full article here

New Clue to How Cancer Causes Organ Failure

“…the presence of a tumor in the body can trick these immune cells to fight an infection that does not exist. This is caused by substances secreted by the tumor that activates neutrophils to form “NETs”

Read the full article here

14 Leading Cancer Institutes Collaborate to Advance Personalized Medicine for Cancer Patients

IBM Watson Health announced that it is collaborating with more than a dozen leading cancer institutes to accelerate the ability of clinicians to identify and personalize treatment options for their patients. The institutes will apply Watson’s advanced cognitive capabilities to reduce from weeks to minutes the ability to translate DNA insights, understand a person’s genetic profile and gather relevant information from medical literature to personalize treatment options…..

… Most of the 1.6 million Americans who are diagnosed with cancer each year receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Yet when these standard treatments fail and as genetic sequencing becomes increasingly accessible and affordable, some patients are beginning to benefit from treatments that target their specific cancer-causing genetic mutations. However, the process is time-consuming and requires clinicians to sift through and reconcile a deluge of genetic information — for example a single patient’s genome represents more than 100 gigabytes of data — in addition to health information such as electronic medical records, journal studies and clinical trial information.

Watson can help clinicians quickly sift through this data and provide comprehensive insights on cancer-causing mutations and medical literature that is potentially relevant.

Read the full article here


Arm yourself to be part of your own team with Patient Power (

“There’s an old saying that, you know, in a dark room better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,” says Dr. Michael Wong. He discusses with us how he chased the light all the way from Canada to the United States to further his knowledge through postdoctoral studies. He couldn’t live a life that accepted death from cancer so easily.

See the video here.


Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Have a Role in Treating Melanoma?

Dr. Michael Wong remembered his grandmother using many things to treat ailments. He describes how his great grandmother passed down the Chinese touch to his grandmother, and now as a doctor, his grandmother has passed it down to him. He talks about how Chinese medicine has a place, and it is not meant to interfere with drugs that have a stronger potency to truly fight the cancer. Dr. Wong has traveled all the way to China to go straight to the source and check for practices himself. He wants to be able to look a patient in the eye and tell them, “This is the medicinal path you should take.” He wants to accompany his patients on their voyage of cancer, while he continues his voyage of medicinal discovery—because after all, without them, not of this would be possible. His patients are the light in a dark room.

Sponsored by the Patient Empowerment Network through educational grants from Genentech and Novartis.

See the video here.


Amgen tests T-Vec’s combo potential in trial with Merck’s Keytruda

Amgen’s ($AMGNcancer vaccine candidate may be awaiting FDA and EMA approval as a melanoma monotherapy, but the company isn’t stopping there. Like many of its peers, it’s looking to explore its prospect’s potential as part of an immunotherapy duo, and now it’s kicked off a trial combining its treatment with Merck’s ($MRK) anti-PD-1 therapy that should help it do just that.

On Monday, the California company announced it had initiated a study of its oncolytic immunotherapy talimogene laherparepvec–T-Vec for short–in combination with Merck’s newly approved checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic melanoma patients. After enrolling its first participant, the safety and efficacy study will recruit about 109 more across 35 sites in the U.S., Australia and Europe, the biotech announced.

Read the full article here


Will FDA advisers shoot down Amgen’s cancer vaccine?

February 12, 2015 | By

Amgen ($AMGN) has high hopes for its new cancer vaccine, barreling toward global approvals with positive data in melanoma. But a narrow miss on one key endpoint could present a major hurdle, and Amgen will soon get a chance to defend the treatment before a panel of FDA advisers.

Two of the agency’s independent expert committees are slated to review talimogene laherparepvec (nicknamed T-Vec) on April 29, voting whether to recommend the vaccine for full approval. The FDA isn’t required to follow the opinions of its advisers, but it most commonly does. The agency has promised to hand down a final decision on Amgen’s candidate by Oct. 27.

Read the full article here

Using polio to kill cancer: A producers’ notebook

A conversation with Jeff Fager and Michael Radutzky about the 60 Minutes story that followed cancer patients treated with polio

Every once in a while, a story comes through 60 Minutes that has the potential to change lives. This week, Scott Pelley’s report on a new medical treatment using the polio virus to kill cancer is that kind of story.

Most people remember polio as the scourge that paralyzed millions of children until a vaccine was developed in the 1950s. Now, researchers at Duke University are injecting a modified polio virus directly into deadly brain tumors. The research is still in early stages and Duke doctors warn that it’s impossible to predict how effective the polio treatment will be in a wider population, but they’ve seen some stunning results in their Phase 1 trial.

For video and the full article click here



Cancer’s Super-Survivors

This is a great article from The Wall Street Journal about the fabulous things happening with immunotherapy research.

“His family doctor told him he had lost two pints of blood. Further tests revealed a tumor the size of a quarter on his small intestine. He had surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, followed by months of chemotherapy. But the disease spread to his liver and kidneys. The diagnosis: Stage 4 melanoma, a skin cancer typically fatal within a year.

“Death is not an option,” he told his doctor.

Nine years later, against all odds, Mr. Telford is still alive. What saved him was an experimental immunotherapy drug—a medication that unleashes the body’s own immune system to attack cancer.”

Read the full article here


Scientists Find Cancer Weak Spots for New Targeted Drugs

Scientists have identified weak spots in cancer cells that could be targeted and attacked by new precision drugs.

A major computational analysis by scientists at the University of Sussex and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, has found a number of potential targets for drugs that exploit the inherent weaknesses of cancer cells.

The findings could lead to personalised medicine that ‘reads’ a cancer patient’s DNA and only attacks defective cells – in contrast to the scattergun approach of conventional chemotherapy, which attacks all dividing cells, including healthy ones.

Read the full article here.

Fighting Cancer with Nanomedicine

Nanotechnology-based therapeutics will revolutionize cancer treatment.

Short drug circulation times and difficulty localizing therapy to tumor sites are but two of the challenges associated with existing cancer treatments. More troubling are the issues of drug toxicity and tumor resistance. Toxicity can cause major complications, such as low white-blood-cell counts or heart fail­ure, that necessitate cessation of treatment. The tissue damage inflicted by some therapies can even be fatal. And evolution of drug resistance by tumors accounts for the vast majority of cases in which treatment fails. Given these and other issues associated with treatment safety and efficacy, scientists are applying tremendous effort toward the utilization of nanomedicine in the fight against cancer.

Nanotechnology-based therapeutics have exhibited clear benefits when compared with unmodified drugs, including improved half-lives, retention, and targeting efficiency, and fewer patient side effects. Researchers have already made progress with chemotherapeutic nanomedicines in the clinic.

Read the full article here


Dogs That Smell Cancer

The 2003 study was a 12 week look at the diagnostic accuracy of canine scent detection in early and late stage lung and breast cancer.  The dogs (all five of them) were able to detect cancer with 98% accuracy. Not only could the dogs detect cancer,   the but they could also discriminate cancer from healthy controls and also disease controls. In medicine, you don’t hear numbers like “98%” for the accuracy of anything.

Read the full article here

Coffee May Reduce Risk For Deadly Skin Cancer

For the study, published Tuesday in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers analyzed data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study on more than 447,000 non-Hispanic whites, who are at higher risk of skin cancer. Study subjects filled out questionnaires about their eating habits, including coffee drinking, and were followed-up after about 10 years.

The researchers found that frequent coffee drinkers — those who consumed four cups or more per day — had a 20 percent lower risk for developing malignant melanoma than those who drank less coffee.

Read the full article here

From the “Why didn’t I study this sh** in college?” files…….

It’s not a pleasant sight; ticks having their saliva extracted. But according to researchers at the Butantan Institute in Brazil, the arachnid’s spit could be extremely valuable in fighting cancer. Project coordinator, Ana Marisa Chudzinski-Tavassi, says her team originally explored the anti blood-clotting properties of tick saliva. But they soon found that one particular molecule, Ambyomin-X, also kills malignant cells. 

Read the full article here

One dose, then surgery: A new way to test brain tumor drugs

“Doctors use a stored sample from the original tumor to see if its growth is driven by any genes or pathways targeted by one of the experimental drugs in development. If so, they give that single dose of the new drug before surgery to remove the new tumor.

Then, the tumor tissue is examined under a microscope to see if the drug had its intended effect on the genes or pathways.

So far, the study has tested one drug from AstraZeneca PLC in four patients. Another drug, from Novartis, will be added soon.

“We’re trying to develop a portfolio of these” so there are many possible drugs available for new patients under a single “umbrella” study, Sanai said.

It is called a “phase zero” clinical trial because it comes before the usual three-phase experiments to determine a drug’s safety, ideal dose and effectiveness.

“We view this as a great thing, as something that will produce better drugs that have greater chance of working,” said Dr. Richard Pazdur, cancer drug chief at the FDA.”

Read the full article here


Aaaaaand… a few sites you might find helpful information with general overviews of the latest treatments and experimental research: … melanoma guide

Medical News Today

Melanoma Research Foundation

Patient Power