Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States today. But a group of researchers say they may have found a cure.
Fox news reports on the new study. The researchers have been studying the disease at a Utah cancer institute. They think they may have found a cure for melanoma, which is one of the deadliest types of cancer.
Skin cancer is actually the most common type of cancer. There are the various types of skin cancer, and melanoma is the most severe.
How does melanoma start?
“Melanoma develops in the cells of the skin that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color. It accounts for over 76 percent of cancer deaths each year. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, about 73,870 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States,” according to Fox.
How are researchers conducting their study?
The scientists are customizing mutated viruses and injecting them directly into melanoma tumors to train them to demolish and hit cancer cells in particular.
What is so special about this study though? These scientists are not just taking any virus, but the herpes virus, and altering the way it develops. This type of treatment, which is also known as cancer immunotherapy, utilizes a person’s immune system to fight cancer. The viruses are being engineered to only terminate cancer cells, not healthy cells. This is the problem we face today with standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
Have experts tried anything similar to this before? For a couple of decades now, researchers have been testing immunotherapy treatments as a way to cure cancer. The largest challenge they have faced is showing the body that the cancer cells are foreign, not ones that should be there.
Fox explains, “Before, cancer cells hid in the body and melanoma was not being attacked by the immune system. By taking the herpes virus and altering it to be recognized by melanoma, the immune system uses its memory to destroy the cancer. Now, the virus and the immune system are killing the cancer. So far, 25 percent of patients have been completely cured.”
Why is this type of treatment helpful? Experts say that with this form of treatment, the immune system is able to memorize the virus and attack it at the tumor site, as well as other distant sites it may fight within the body. Also, patients have the ability to avoid having chemotherapy and other surgery related to the cancer.
What are some of the risk factors for melanoma? The following factors are the risk factors are risks: fair skin, history of sunburn, family history of melanoma, excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, living close to the equator or at a higher elevation, having many moles or unusual moles, and a weak immune system.
Melanoma is not the only type of cancer that may be seeing a cure. Researchers say that prostate cancer’s treatment options are also seeing advancements using immunotherapy treatment.
“A drug called Provenge is the first and only FDA-approved immunotherapy for advanced prostate cancer. It works by altering the immune cells to attack prostate cancer cells in men whose disease has progressed while taking androgen deprivation therapy,” according to Fox.