New melanoma treatments offer hope for a cure - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

New melanoma treatments offer hope for a cure

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

It's the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanoma kills thousands in the U.S. each year. Over the weekend, actor James Rebhorn, lost his battle with the disease. But a new treatment - like many done right here in Birmingham, could offer hope to people dealing with skin cancer. 

"This is an aggressive kind of cancer that can pop up anytime," Ken Collier, who is undergoing treatment for Melanoma said.

"Worked in the yard, played golf, and got sun on my body early in my life," Collier said.

Ken Collier's life changed when he learned he had melanoma.

"I had a spot on my right knee," Collier said. "I went to a plastic surgeon and had surgically removed. About a week later he called and said it was melanoma."

It was removed, but came back.

"They did another more extensive surgery and I had all the lymph nodes removed from my right knee to my groin," Collier said. "Of those lymph nodes were positive for melanoma."

"It's really hard," Ken's wife, Judy said. "He's lost so much weight - he's lost about 45 pounds now, he takes his treatments three times a week and they make him so sick."

He's been all over the country for treatment, but found success at home in Birmingham.

"UAB has been a great hospital for this kind of treatment," Collier said.

 "Total Skin and Beauty Dermatology" in Birmingham told us, in just the last couple years, researchers have made big strides in finding ways to slow the effects of melanoma.

Melanoma  hides from the body's immune system.  These new drugs expose the melanoma cells so the body can attack them.

 Pharmaceutical companies  hope to have new drugs out this year.

"I haven't been more excited than now," Dr. Patrick Hwu, MD Anderson Cancer Center said. "There are immune treatments that can stimulate the body's immune system to knock down the tumor and do this for a prolonged period of time."

Ken's last scans showed he was cancer free. He goes back for the next scan, Monday.

"Every day I put behind me and there's no reoccurrence is a good thing," he said.

Doctors say the key to beating it - catching it early.  Be on the look out for new spots that are asymmetrical, have an irregular border, and are larger than a pencil eraser.

Here are links to resources: 

UAB Skin Cancer Research Center: http://www.uab.edu/medicine/dermatology/research/skin-disease-center

MD Anderson Skin Cancer Center: http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-types/skin-cancer/index.html

 

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