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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Nobody Should Die from Advanced-Stage Melanoma, Says Leading Researcher

Tide is turning in skin cancer battle with more than 100 promising drugs for blocking cancer-causing signaling pathways

Brian Nickoloff is director of the Nicholas V. Perricone, M.D., Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Sciences in MSU's College of Human Medicine, director of cutaneous oncology at Van Andel Research Institute and a member of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team. Photo by John Corriveau.

July 16, 2013 - A decade ago there was little doctors could do to help a patient with advanced-stage melanoma. Now it seems each week yields important new discoveries about the deadly skin cancer.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and now is by any measure the most exciting time for melanoma research,” said Brian Nickoloff, director of the Nicholas V. Perricone, M.D., Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Sciences at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.

In the research journal Laboratory Investigation, Nickoloff and colleagues outline recent advances that have put melanoma at the forefront of cancer research, raising hopes that scientists and clinicians may have cornered the deadliest of all skin cancers.

“In the past melanoma outsmarted us, but now we’re starting to outsmart melanoma,” said Nickoloff, who also is director of cutaneous oncology at Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids and a member of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team for melanoma research.

“Go back 10 years and you’ll see we had almost nothing to offer patients with advanced disease, but now we’re definitely getting the upper hand on this cancer.”

Nickoloff was named as a member of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team, which included 49 other top cancer researchers in the U.S., in December of 2011. .

Stand Up To Cancer, its scientific partner the American Association for Cancer Research, and the Melanoma Research Alliance said then the new dream team was to be dedicated to melanoma research.

Stand Up To Cancer, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, raises funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that will get new therapies to patients quickly.

The “Dream Team” approach to funding such research enables scientists from different disciplines at research centers across the country and internationally to collaborate on projects geared toward getting new, less toxic treatments to patients as quickly as possible.

Melanoma is really a catch-all term for the most virulent types of skin cancer. The disease’s complexity is staggering – melanoma tumors have more mutations per cell than any other type of cancer – but new diagnostic tools such as DNA sequencing are helping scientists sort through troves of data to decode each tumor’s “fingerprint.”

And while the list of known mutations that cause melanoma keeps growing, researchers can target most of them by blocking a handful of the “signaling pathways” that control normal cell function and can cause tumors to form and spread.

 

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Fast Acting Virus Kills Melanoma Cancer Cells Before Immune System Can Stop It

Melanoma killer has been highly efficient attacking human cancer cells in animals, lab tests, while ignoring healthy ones

April 23, 2013

Immune System Uses Melanoma's Own Proteins to Kill Off Cancer Cells, Researchers Say

Transfer of cancer building cells to immune system provides crucial intelligence about the attacking cancer, which facilitates the right defense to kill the cancer

Feb. 4, 2013

See more links below news report.


 
 

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Meanwhile, about 100 new drugs with melanoma in their sights are in development, and new combinations of drugs show promise for blocking cancer-causing signaling pathways.

Still, optimism about such progress is tempered by the fact that someone dies from melanoma every hour. Besides being deadly, melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers worldwide. Melanoma also is unusual among cancers in how often it develops in young people; it is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in 25- to 29-year-old women. From 2005-2009, however, the median age at diagnosis for melanoma was 61 years of age and it primarily kills senior citizens.

Science’s rapid progress in understanding and treating melanoma must be coupled with prevention efforts to educate people about the dangers of sun exposure and artificial tanning, Nickoloff said.

“It’s entirely preventable,” he said. “Nobody should die from advanced-stage melanoma.”

Education was part of the goal of the College of Human Medicine’s Gran Fondo, a June bicycling event in Grand Rapids that in its first year attracted 1,500 cyclists and raised about $100,000 for MSU melanoma research.

Nickoloff said that community support is matched by an increasingly collaborative research atmosphere in Grand Rapids – his co-authors on the new paper included Michigan State medical students and cancer experts from Van Andel and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s – that will keep MSU and its West Michigan partners at the leading edge of melanoma research.

“I wish I were 20 years younger, because we’re going to see more and more long-term remissions,” he said. “We’ll get better every year we’re at this.”

>> More about the SU2C Dream Team on Melanoma

Links to More Archived Stories on Melanoma Cancer

About Melanoma

Melanoma is a form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.

About 76,250 men and women (44,250 men and 32,000 women) were expected to be diagnosed with and 9,180 men and women to die of melanoma of the skin in 2012.

From 2005-2009, the median age at diagnosis for melanoma of the skin was 61 years of age.

Approximately 0.6% were diagnosed under age 20; 6.8% between 20 and 34; 10.7% between 35 and 44; 18.2% between 45 and 54; 21.6% between 55 and 64; 18.8% between 65 and 74; 16.7% between 75 and 84; and 6.6% 85+ years of age.

The age-adjusted incidence rate was 21.0 per 100,000 men and women per year.

US Mortality

From 2005-2009, the median age at death for melanoma of the skin was 68 years of age. Approximately 0.1% died under age 20; 2.6% between 20 and 34; 5.6% between 35 and 44; 13.5% between 45 and 54; 19.9% between 55 and 64; 21.2% between 65 and 74; 24.1% between 75 and 84; and 12.9% 85+ years of age.

The age-adjusted death rate was 2.7 per 100,000 men and women per year. These rates are based on patients who died in 2005-2009 in the US.

Lifetime Risk

Based on rates from 2007-2009, 1.99% of men and women born today will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin at some time during their lifetime. This number can also be expressed as 1 in 50 men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime. These statistics are called the lifetime risk of developing cancer.

Sometimes it is more useful to look at the probability of developing melanoma of the skin between two age groups. For example, 0.99% of men will develop melanoma of the skin between their 50th and 70th birthdays compared to 0.60% for women

Prevalence

On January 1, 2009, in the United States there were approximately 876,344 men and women alive who had a history of melanoma of the skin - 427,810 men and 448,534 women.

>> See the online booklet What You Need To Know About™ Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers

>> Melanoma home page at American Cancer Society

>> Melanoma Home Page at National Cancer Institute

>> Melanoma at Wikipedia

Earlier Detection of Cancer May Be Enhanced by MIT Discovery with Biomarkers Collected in Urine

Nanoparticles amplify tumor signals, making them much easier to detect in urine

Dec. 17, 2012

Small Test Shows Treatment’s Potential to Stop Spread of Melanoma Cancer

Treatment uses drug believed capable of stimulating a patient’s immune system into attacking cancer cells while sparing healthy normal tissue

Nov. 16, 2012

How Melanoma Skin Cancer Can Resist Chemotherapy is Discovered

Study results suggest new approach to treating most deadly skin cancer

Sept. 17, 2012

Discovery of Biomarker for Deadly Melanoma Skin Cancer Offers New Hope

Researchers were able to reverse melanoma growth in pre-clinical studies  - Sept. 13, 2012

Melanoma Skin Cancer May Be More Treatable with New Discovery

Average age of melanoma diagnosis is 61; over 9,000 expected to die in 2012 - more about this skin cancer below news report - Aug. 15, 2012

Secret to Melanoma Cancer’s Resistance to Treatment Exposed - Hope for Seniors

After melanoma removed from head...Researchers say they have found why treatment is difficult and may have answer for turning this around - July 23, 2012


Aspirin, Painkillers Ward Off Skin Cancer; Second Study Lets Immune System Stop Melanoma

NSAIDs decreased risk for squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma; advanced melanoma patients see scientist lower cancer barrier to allow immune system attack - May 29, 2012


Early Success in Curing Melanoma in Mice Spurs Mayo Vaccine Development

Success with melanoma adds to Mayo Clinic's growing portfolio of experimental cancer vaccines - March 19, 2012


New Therapies May Mean More Life for Patients with Advanced Melanoma

Two new drugs, vemurafenib (Zelboraf) and ipilimumab (Yervoy), showing promise in slowing the progression of this skin cancer - March 16, 2012


Metastatic Melanoma Patients Live Almost Twice as Long with New Drug

Zelboraf (vemurafenib) changes the natural history of the disease to extend survival - see video - Feb. 23, 2012


Cancer Survivors Face Increased Risk of Melanoma; Melanoma Survivors Even More

Melanoma the most aggressive, dangerous skin cancer, fifth most common cancer among men, seventh among women - Dec. 19, 2011


Pre-Melanoma Skin Lesion Found Mostly in Elderly Successfully Removed with Laser

Lentigo maligna disappears as carbon dioxide laser exerts its effect by vaporization of water-containing cells - Nov. 21, 2011


Coffee, Favorite Drink of Seniors, Provides Protection from Basal Cell Carcinoma

Women get almost twice as much protection as men among 3-cup a day drinkers - see video - Oct. 26, 2011


Senior Citizens Facing Melanoma Should Worry More About Their Health Than Their Age

Patients with lower muscle density had much higher rates of their cancer returning – regardless of the tumor size or patient's age - Aug. 30, 2011


Vitamin D Appears Linked With Risk of Skin Cancer, Although Relationship Complex

Study looked at vitamin D level in senior citizens with non-melanoma skin cancers - Aug. 15, 2011


Melanoma Skin Cancer a Chronic Disease Causing Long-Term Problems for Women

Women need additional care, including follow-up and possibly counseling to optimally cope with melanoma - Feb. 21, 2011

 

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