Everyone already knows that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., and the worst form of this cancer is melanoma. Plus, now that summer is close, we have longer days and more exposure to the sun.
Despite the fact that melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, it still affects 2,500 people just in New Jersey and kills around 10,000 people throughout the U.S. every year. Many efforts are made to properly inform and educate people so that they can prevent the disease or stop its development.
Over the last few years, scientists managed to find new ways to prevent and treat melanoma. Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery are the most popular treatments for melanoma, but scientists have recently found various ways to treat melanoma which have been already approved by the FDA. Moreover, they proved to improve the quality of life and patient survival.
One of them is immunotherapy, which triggers the body to use its defenses to fight the disease. Plus, researchers are still trying to understand more about the PD-L1/ PD-1 pathway used by cancer cells as a method to avoid being recognized and attacked by the body’s natural immune fighters, the T cells.
They way immunotherapy drugs work is by blocking this pathway and allowing T cells to do their job. These drugs are also known as ‘checkpoint inhibitors.’ They have proved to be a success until now. Investigators from the Rutgers Cancer Institute discovered that some of these drugs have an anti-tumor response in fighting several forms of cancer and also melanoma.
Another method of treatment is the oncolytic virus therapy. Scientists managed to manipulate these viruses in the laboratory and used them to target and kill cancer cells. This mechanism, just as the previous one, triggers the immune system to fight against cancer. This method of treatment is administrated through an injection into the tumor itself. The oncolytic virus therapy was first approved as a melanoma treatment in October 2015.
After the success of these two types of therapy mentioned before, the state of the melanoma patients has significantly improved and the whole effect of these drug approvals might take another few years to be understood. Now, the progress brought by these methods of treatment might be used not only to fight back melanoma but to treat other forms of cancer as well.