Immunotherapy & Awareness: Fighting Melanoma on Two Fronts

MRA is saddened by the news that Mark Carter lost his battle with melanoma this week.  We send our condolences to his family and friends.   He had hoped that sharing his story would educate and raise awareness of this deadly disease.    

I first went to see my doctor in 1999 after my wife’s prompting.  She had noticed a mole on my lower right abdomen that had changed shape and wanted me to get it checked.  My doctor told me it was nothing to be concerned about and sent me home.  The mole continued to grow and again my wife told me to go see the doctor.  I did and this time he agreed to remove it.

A week later, my doctor rang me at work and told me that it was malignant melanoma.  Both my wife and I were totally devastated by this news.

Things were a bit of a blur after this, but I had a wide-level excision and regular check-ups for 10 years after surgery.  Finally, I was discharged from the hospital feeling incredibly relieved that the disease had not recurred.

In April 2012, I woke up one morning with a painful lump under my left armpit and the alarm bells started ringing in my head.  I saw my doctor who said he was 80% sure it was an infected lymph node but could not rule out melanoma due to my past history.  The lump never improved, so it was removed by surgery and I was told that the melanoma had returned.  I was now stage IIIC.

The first CT scan taken within three months of my surgery showed that my disease had not been contained, so I was put on the BRAF inhibitor treatment, vemurafenib.  I was now a stage IV terminal patient.  Three months later, the next scan revealed that I had shown a complete response to this amazing drug.  Unfortunately, 13 months later the disease came back.  Vemurafenib is only a life prolonger, not a cure, and resistance usually occurs.

Finally, I was put on the immunotherapy drug, ipilimumab, and a few weeks ago I finished my last infusion.  My next scan will show if I am a responder or not, but even if I do fail to respond I am lucky enough to have been offered the chance to take the new anti-PD-1 drug, nivolumab, under the expanded access scheme in the UK.

Although I had 13 years clear of the disease, I now count my lucky stars that there are treatments available that have kept me alive for 18 months.  I truly believe there has been a huge paradigm shift in melanoma treatments, particularly in the field of immunotherapy.  In maybe five years’ time, melanoma will no longer be a terminal disease but more of a chronic illness.

I now devote most of my time to raising awareness of the risk factors and causes of melanoma.  Still far too many people are ignorant of the dangers of excessive UV exposure.  I believe that education is the key to increasing awareness and ultimately reducing the recent explosion in melanoma incidence.

 

Mark and Liz Carter edit

About the Author

Mark Carter, 56, lived in the United Kingdom with his lovely wife Liz.  He was a UK-based melanoma awareness advocate and anti-sunbed campaigner who worked to raise awareness of this deadly disease.  You can learn more about Mark’s journey and his advocacy work on his blog: http://www.melanomaman.co.uk/

 

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, July 12

Hello everyone! We’re back to bring you the news highlights for all things melanoma and MRA.

JCrew 1

In celebration of UV Safety Month this July, J.Crew will donate $1 to MRA for every Instagram upload showing how you cover up and have fun in the sun.  Just tag it #JCrewSmartSun and help win donations for MRA.  Thanks to the generosity of our founders, 100% of funds raised will go directly toward melanoma research.  Stay sunsafe and help fund cutting-edge research – it’s a win-win!

This week marked game-changing progress for melanoma treatment as regulators in Japan granted the world’s 1st approval of the anti-PD-1 drug, nivolumab.  News also broke that Bristol-Myers Squibb will be seeking FDA approval of nivolumab, making this breakthrough immunotherapy available in the United States months ahead of schedule.

MRA also hailed the launch of an Expanded Access Program for advanced melanoma patients to receive a combination therapy of ipilimumab and nivolumab.  This method of combination therapy has shown promising results for late-stage melanoma patients.

On the prevention front, MRA is delighted to report Hawaii became the 10th state to ban indoor tanning for minors under 18 years of age.  There is much more work to be done to reduce everyone’s risk for skin cancer and melanoma, but the passage of this bill is a step in the right direction.

You don’t want to miss this great interview on the dangers of sun exposure and skin cancer with dermatologist, Dr. Mitchell Kline, by legendary PIX11 broadcaster, Marvin Scott.

GENlogoCMYK_092313Finally, we’re proud to share that MRA was ranked the #1 Grant-Giving Disease Foundation by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN).  As always, we are dedicated to finding a cure for melanoma and working toward a day when no one will suffer or die from this disease.

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, May 31

Today is the last day of Melanoma Awareness Month and what a ride it’s been!  Thank you to all of our allies and everyone who dedicated their efforts to raising awareness of melanoma and offering support to fund melanoma research.

MRA is delighted to share our brand new video featuring our world-class research program. We’re incredibly proud of our impact on melanoma research, providing $120 million through grants and leveraged funding to accelerate scientific discovery and its translation. Watch the video and learn how we do it!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X9Q-uNWnQI]

 

From May 30 to June 3, MRA is attending the American Society of Clinical Oncology‘s (ASCO) 50th annual meeting in Chicago and ASCO is all abuzz about immunotherapies and melanoma treatment.  To learn more about immunotherapy treatments, check out these articles:

New drugs aid in the fight against melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer via Miami Herald

Immune Therapy’s Cancer Promise Creates Research Rush via Bloomberg

Advances in Melanoma Treatment Prolonging Lives via Boston Globe

This Thursday, the FDA announced it will now require warning labels on tanning beds.  This black-box warning will state that sunlamps in tanning salons should not be used by persons under 18.  This marks another incredible advancement in melanoma prevention policy, in addition to Minnesota and Louisiana announcing legislation banning minors from tanning bed use.

Nine states total have instituted under-18 bans for indoor tanning to address the alarming incidence of melanoma in young people.  Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer people aged 15-29.  A recent study shows that indoor tanning increases your risk of melanoma, even if you don’t burn, because “tanning is a biological response to damage to the DNA […] and you’re going to get that [ultraviolet light] damage in a tanning booth whether or not you burn.”

To address this health risk to young people, the Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation and Edgemakers are inviting teenagers to help create a PSA to warn their peers about the dangers of melanoma and how to prevent it.  Learn more about the contest here.

Finally, we would like to share this story about a melanoma survivor who has dedicated himself to supporting other melanoma patients.