Malignant melanoma is on the rise.
Approximately 91, 270 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the US this year, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society.
In the early stages, surgery is the first line of treatment for melanoma.
Dr. Mecker Moller is a surgical oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. She works to remove the malignant growth and adjacent tissue with the goal of obtaining clean margins to decrease the chance of recurrence.
However, sometimes melanoma is diagnosed at an advanced stage or it recurs and cannot be removed with surgery. In those cases, Dr. Moller uses a novel therapy designed to get the immune system to fight the cancer.
“We inject a solution made of an oncolytic virus,” she explained. Designed to infect and kill the cancer cells, this solution, known as T-VEC, is a treatment option for patients like Jose Blanco.
Blanco had surgery in September to remove a melanoma from the back of his right arm. Within a few months the melanoma was back, this time in his underarm area. Recently, he started seeing Dr. Moller every three weeks for T-VEC injections. Using ultrasound, she locates the lesions under the skin and directly injects them with a genetically-engineered herpes virus. This local immunotherapy is FDA approved.
There are additional investigational therapies for melanoma now under review and not available elsewhere in Miami. “At Sylvester we have several clinical trials right now for advanced inoperable melanoma,” said Dr. Moller. “Now I can offer patients an alternative option where before I could not.”
Sylvester is the only South Florida site for the PISCES trial, investigating the use of an electric pulse to open the pores of the melanoma cell membrane for delivery of two biological agents.
For more information, visit Sylvester’s clinical trials.
Diana Gonzalez is the media relations director for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.