Immunotherapy Treatment Brings Hope to Melanoma Patients

Print icon

More than one million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the year ahead, but with precision medicine, more targeted treatment and new options like immunotherapy, there is more hope than ever before. This is particularly true when it comes to melanoma, a particularly deadly form of skin cancer. 

Dr. Omar Eton is director of the new Melanoma and Skin Care Center at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, which is bringing leading edge melanoma treatment – including immunotherapy and the latest clinical trials – to Connecticut. 

Q: What is immunotherapy? How does it work?

A: Immunotherapy is an effort to coax your own natural immune system to attack tumor cells. The way it works is that we can infuse antibodies – and soon maybe other drugs – that actually block the inhibitions of those immune cells from attacking the tumor, then make the tumor disappear.

Q: What is it about melanoma that makes immunotherapy a better course of treatment?

A: The good news is that immunotherapy isn’t just effective against melanoma – melanoma is just where it all started after a century of research. Luckily, we’re hearing about FDA approvals now in so many other cancers, such as the smoking cancers (lung cancer, head and neck cancer). We are still trying to make progress in using immunotherapy for other cancers, like pancreatic cancer and certain colon cancers.

Q: Who is most prone to developing melanoma?

A: Usually folks who are of northern European descent with fair skin, light eyes and hair (especially redheads). These, however, are not individually self-limiting. Even people of African American descent can be diagnosed with melanoma.

In addition, there is an epidemic of melanoma in people over the age of 65, especially if they have had one or more blistering sunburn when they were younger. There is also a rare genetic version of melanoma, so it is important to know your family’s history with the disease.

The Melanoma and Skin Care Center at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute is bringing leading edge melanoma treatment – including immunotherapy and the latest clinical trials – to Connecticut. 

What's New

Cancer cells.

Dr. Wylie Hosmer: Weaponizing Your Immune System Against Cancer

By Dr. Wylie D. Hosmer The three most terrifying words in the English language may be: “You have cancer.” But exciting advances in research have uncovered more powerful treatment options, using the patient’s immune system, to target and attack cancer cells. More research is needed, but this treatment known as...

Child Car Seat Safety: Installation is Key

Did you know that accidents – including car accidents – are the leading cause of children’s deaths? Child safety seats can reduce death by as much as 71 percent and prevent injury but only if they are used correctly, according to Safe Kids Connecticut. Connecticut law requires that all children...

Woman taking out trash.

Is Taking Out The Trash Any Way To Live Longer? (Really?)

Thanks to fitness-tracker accelerometers, researchers have learned more precisely the amount of physical activity it takes to live a longer, fitter life. Surprisingly, not much. Three studies that used accelerometers to measure participants’ activity  concluded in recent months that even the lightest regular physical activity — making a bed, taking...

IV bags.

How Hurricane Maria Caused Nationwide IV Bag Shortage

With a nationwide shortage of intravenous bags, clinical pharmacies across Hartford Healthcare are working to ensure patient care isn’t interrupted. The Wall Street Journal reported that the shortage began in September after a group of IV bag manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico lost power because of Hurricane Maria. The shortage...

Man with flu.

The ‘Man Flu’: A Severe Case or Severe Wimpiness?

When it comes to complaining about flu and other upper-respiratory infection symptoms, men might not be wimps after all.  Maybe. A new study by researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada found that “man flu” — a term often used by women who think that men complain more about...