Melanoma Clinical Trials

What is melanoma?

Melanoma of the skin is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes (the cells that give skin its color or tan) start to grow out of control. It is less common than other types of skin cancers, however, melanoma is by far the most dangerous.

Risk factors

Risk factors for developing melanoma include the presence of moles, skin type, UV exposure, and family history of melanoma.

Melanoma staging (0, I-IV)

Stage 0 (in situ): Cancer cells are confined to the upper layer of skin 

Stage I: Cancer cells have grown deeper, but have not spread to lymph nodes/other areas of the body

Stage II: Cancer cells have grown even deeper into the skin, but have not spread to lymph nodes/other areas of the body

Stage III: Cancer cells have spread to regional lymph nodes, but not to distant organs

Stage IV: Spread beyond the original site and regional lymph nodes to other areas of the body, such as the lungs or liver.

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Melanoma warning signs (ABCDE method)

  • Asymmetry: a mole has an irregular shape
  • Border: the edge is not smooth, irregular or notched
  • Color: uneven shading or dark spots
  • Diameter: spot larger than the size of a pencil eraser
  • Evolving/Elevation: spot changing in size/shape/texture

Melanoma Cancer Treatment Options:

Surgery: This is the main treatment for melanoma, in which wide excision is used at the site of the tumor to completely remove it. 

Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is used to stimulate a person’s own immune system to recognize/destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapies modulate proteins in the immune cells that need to be turned off/on to mount an immune response against the tumor. 

Targeted Therapy: Target specific characteristics of cancer cells, such as proteins that allow cancer cells to grow rapidly or in abnormal ways.

Chemotherapy: Chemo can be taken as a pill or infusion through the vein. Chemo can be given in cycles or rounds, where each round of treatment is followed by a break. In general, chemo attacks any quickly dividing cells, while minimizing harm to healthy ones

Radiation Therapy: High-energy rays (such as x-rays) are used to kill cancer cells so they cannot grow, multiply, or spread. 

Clinical trials for melanoma

Clinical trials are designed to find new ways to prevent, screen for, or treat disease. Melanoma cancer clinical trials are being studied in humans to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new approaches or treatments for melanoma cancer. These trials are one way to get access to the newest, yet to be approved cancer treatments. If you or a loved one needs assistance to find melanoma clinical trials, our clinical team will be happy to assist you. 

Non-melanoma versus melanoma trials

Many people think that skin cancer and melanoma mean the same thing, when in fact melanoma is just one form of skin cancer.  There are clinical trials available for both non-melanoma and melanoma cancers. 

Skin cancer clinical trials are for patients with other types of skin cancer that occur in the skin, such as Squamous cell carcinoma or Basal cell cancer, and may, or may not also include melanoma patients. Clinical trials for melanoma skin cancer are for patients with melanoma only, where their cancer starts in their melanocytes. These clinical trials are often viewed as the best treatment option for advanced melanoma.  

An estimated 96,480 adults will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2019. There is a growing number of patients that are enrolling in melanoma clinical research trials in search of finding new approaches to prevent and treat melanoma. Currently, there are more than 400 melanoma cancer clinical trials recruiting patients today.  

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