RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – For years Stephanie Tyler spent her free time out in the sun. Later in life she says she paid for it.
Her dermatologist didn’t mince words when she spotted a lesion on Stephanie’s face.
“And basically she explained to me it was stage 2 melanoma which was treatable but we needed to be aggressive about it and not futz around,” says Stephanie.
Fortunately for Tyler, her malignant melanoma was caught in the early and most curable stages. It is the most deadly form of skin cancer for a reason.
“Go down into past the epidermis into the dermis and then we can find it where it has metastasized throughout the blood stream into lymph nodes, liver, lung and brain,” says Dr. Billie Casse, a dermatologist with the Nevada Center for Dermatology.
Once melanoma reaches stage four patients had about a 10% survival rate.
But with two new immunotherapy drugs one called niyolumab the other ipilimumab, that survival rate has gone up substantially.
“Two different therapies to actually be effective,” says Dr. Casse. “Because cancer will be smart with one therapy. So, I get 2 therapies in there. So, it takes cancer a lot longer to become smart and start evading that system,” says Dr. Casse.
Dr. Casse says the drugs are used together during treatment–changing a patients survival rate from six to nine months–to five years in more than 50-percent of patients.
Even though the immunotherapy drugs are showing great promise for people with melanoma not everyone is a good candidate.
Patients need to ask their oncologist which category they are in.