‘Dream'-ing Up a New Treatment for Melanoma

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Ninety-eight thousand Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and 7,000 will die from it. New treatments, like immunotherapy and targeted therapies, increase a patient’s chances of survival. Now, in a brand-new study, researchers say the order doctors deliver these cutting-edge treatments makes a difference.

For years, people spent hours in the sun, trying to get a healthy glow. These days, we know that exposure to UV rays can be a risk factor for cancer.

“Up until not that long ago, metastatic melanoma was a uniformly fatal disease. If you had it, you usually died of it within a few years,” said Hackensack University Medical Center oncologist Dr. Andrew Pecora.

Now, doctors can treat metastatic melanoma two ways: with immunotherapy – using a person’s immune system to fight cancer – or for patients with a specific gene mutation called the BRAF mutation – targeted therapy. Doctors have been prescribing either to patients with the gene mutation. The DREAMSeq trial proved the order, or sequence of the treatment, matters.

“Patients who received immunotherapy first had a significantly better survival than patients who received targeted therapy first,” said Pecora.

Pecora also says the sequence of treatment – with immunotherapy first – should become the standard of care, which will result in more people being alive for five years or more. If immunotherapy doesn’t work, doctors should then follow with targeted therapy.

Pecora says about 50% of metastatic melanoma patients have the BRAF gene, so this finding will have big implications for a lot of patients.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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