The number of surgical, radiation and medical treatments for melanoma has greatly increased over the past 10 years. Treatment options include:
The Latest Diagnosis and Treatments at the St. Luke's Melanoma Center
Immunotherapy, or biological therapy – involves advanced cancer-fighting treatments in the form of vaccines and natural materials made by the body’s own immune system. These therapies work to fight cancer by boosting, directing or restoring the body’s natural defenses against the tumor. Immunotherapy has been helpful in treating melanoma patients at high risk of recurrence, even those with advanced disease.
Interferon – is a natural protein made by the body’s immune system. Interferon stops the growth of viruses and cancer cells. Interferon has been shown to significantly prolong the life of high-risk melanoma patients.
Ipilimumab (ip-ee-LIM-uh-mab) - The Food and Drug Administration recently cleared the use of this breakthrough drug, the first skin cancer drug to extend life in patients with advanced melanoma. Ipilimumab is a fully human antibody designed to block the activity of CTLA-4 (cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4), sustaining an active immune response in its attack on cancer cells. St. Luke's became the first hospital in the region to offer ipilimumab to patients prior to FDA-approval as part of an extended access clinical research program.
High-dose Interleukin-2 (IL-2) – is a natural protein that stimulates the growth of cancer-fighting white blood cells. IL-2 has proven effective in prolonging life for melanoma patients with advanced disease. IL-2 is effective when used alone or after standard chemotherapy has failed. St. Luke's Melanoma Center is the only center in eastern Pennsylvania to offer IL-2 as a treatment for melanoma.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SNLB) – Nuclear medicine and surgical procedure involves injecting dye around a tumor to identify a single lymph node at risk for the spread of cancer. Sentinel lymph node biopsy dramatically increases the accuracy of determining whether a tumor has spread. SLNB reduces the need for major lymph node removal surgery by 70 percent for melanoma patients.
Radiation therapy – St. Luke’s offers the most advanced radiation therapy program in our region and serves as a Varian Medical Systems show site. Radiation therapy may be used to help control melanoma if it has spread or recurred.
Promising new treatments and clinical trials – When it is unlikely that standard treatments for melanoma will benefit patients, they are offered promising new treatments through clinical trials. More than 70 clinical trials currently are under way at St. Luke's Cancer Center. Several of the clinical trials offered specifically are for melanoma.
St. Luke's participates in national and regional trials for the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma, including Allovectin-7® for advanced melanoma; the AGENDA trial, a unique targeted therapy which compares DTIC to DTIC plus genasense; and ECOG Trial E 1697 which tests interferon as adjuvant therapy. St. Luke’s is at the forefront of research for melanoma and has expertise in the evaluation and administration of new and experimental therapies. Dr. Agarwala serves as investigator for these trials.
Support services – Our team works to coordinate the full range of services, including initial oncology consultations, immunotherapy treatment, surgery services, follow-up care, social services and counseling, nutritional counseling, symptom management, home health care, patient and family education and access to other necessary care.