For millions of Americans living with basal and squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma, each new breakthrough in skin cancer research & treatment matters deeply.
For some, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Thankfully, there’s a wealth of productive skin cancer research & treatment activity occurring worldwide here in 2018. There’s also more effort than ever to educate the public about prevention. More than ever, people understand that un/under-protected sun (or tanning bed) exposure damages the skin, and causes skin cancer.
But while more people are taking preventive measures, skin cancer rates keep rising. And to nobody’s great surprise, Florida leads the nation in annual diagnosed skin cancer cases.
Given these troubling truths, here’s to raising hopes as well. Let’s take a look at some of 2018’s brighter prospects in skin cancer research & treatment.
Breakthrough in Basal Cell Carcinoma Drug Resistance
With about 2 million new cases yearly, basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in America – and the most common cancer, period. If caught early enough, it can be treated successfully with surgical removal or targeted radiation treatment. If not, it can spread throughout the body. And, it can become notoriously drug-resistant.
That’s why the early-year announcement from Stanford University researchers was so potentially important. They’ve identified the protein behind the drug resistance and have had initial success blocking it. This has “significantly slowed the growth of drug-resistant basal cell carcinoma in mice”. More research and ultimately clinical trials on humans will be needed, but for now, hopeful news.
New Treatment for Advanced Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer with a million or so new cases a year. As with basal cell carcinoma, most cases can be treated successfully with surgery and/or radiation. But what if the disease progresses, what then?
For these advanced cases, there’s cause for new hope. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announced the breakthrough in early June. A relatively new “immunotherapy” (more on that in a moment) drug called cemiplimab successfully shrank the tumors of almost half the patients in the study, by at least 30 percent.
Those are impressive numbers in the world of skin cancer research & treatment. Impressive enough for the FDA to grant “breakthrough therapy” status to the proposed new treatment, fast-tracking approval – and raising the hopes of many.
Focus of Melanoma & Skin Cancer Research & Treatment Shifting to Immunotherapy
The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, kills another American every hour. More than 175,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2018…and about ten thousand people will lose their lives.
If caught early and surgically removed, treatment is overwhelmingly successful. At more advanced stages, chemotherapy can be used, while newer targeted therapy and also combination therapy drug treatments are showing increasing success.
In recent years though, much of the focus in skin cancer research and treatment of malignant melanoma has shifted to immunotherapy. These are drug therapies intended to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to detect and kill cancer cells.
Immunotherapy can be systemic; traveling the bloodstream through the entire body. Or it can be local, targeted to particular areas of the body, to specific tumors and lesions.
New targeted and combination treatments using different immunotherapy drugs have gained approval in recent years. Still other new drug therapies are in development. Results are promising.
For individuals and their families coping with advanced stage skin cancer, this can be life-changing or life-saving news. It’s especially worth noting that immunotherapy and other clinical trial opportunities are abundant, and available.
Good Bacteria May Help Treat Skin Cancer
You may have heard increasing evidence in recent years, that “good” bacteria (think probiotics) are critical to our intestinal and overall health. In February, new research from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine showed that the same principle may also apply to skin cancer research and treatment.
Initial tests on mice were intended to show whether common, usually harmless Staph bacteria from our skin could kill dangerous group A strep bacteria (strep throat, etc.). What they report finding instead, is Big News:
“This unique strain of skin bacteria produces a chemical that kills several types of cancer cells but does not appear to be toxic to normal cell. We showed activity against melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and ultraviolet-induced precancerous lesions.”
Needless to say, there’s much more research and testing to come. But for now, another exciting 2018 development in skin cancer research.
Significant Weight Loss = Significant Skin Cancer Risk Reduction?
Maybe it’s not so surprising, given the role obesity plays in other diseases and cancers. But the world of skin cancer research and treatment was caught a bit off guard recently when Swedish researchers released their report.
The large-scale study examined 2,000+ patients who’d had bariatric surgery for obesity, studying their overall health outcomes for nearly 20 years following the surgery. The results unexpectedly uncovered a skin cancer risk reduction of more than 40 percent. The risk of developing melanoma? Reduced by more than 60 percent.
Much more study is needed to assess all other factors and cement the seemingly causal link. But for now, more reason for optimism.
In general, 2018 is shaping up as a dynamic year for promising and successful new developments in skin cancer research and treatment. We can only hope for the same, and then some, for 2019 and beyond.
Finding the Right Partner in Skin Cancer Prevention, Detection & Treatment
All the best research in the world can’t help people who remain beyond the healing reach of professional dermatological education, detection and treatment. Developing an ongoing partnership with a great dermatologist in Arcadia, Jensen Beach, Lighthouse Point, West Palm Beach or any other Florida locality, really is vitally important.
Having an already-established relationship with a top skin care team specializing in skin cancer can be a huge advantage. There’s simply no better way to understand, prevent, detect, and if necessary, treat skin cancer at the very earliest possible stage — when success rates are extremely high.
From comprehensive annual skin cancer screenings and preventive education to raise skin cancer awareness; to state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment; to the latest word on the newest skin cancer research and treatment therapies…We’re here, all across the Sunshine State, to unite and work with all Floridians in the fight against skin cancer.