Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. While melanoma itself is less common than a few other forms of cancer, including lung cancer and breast cancer, it is a huge health risk for the general population. As with many forms of cancer, recent medical breakthroughs have led to improved prognoses for those diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. To understand the highlights of the latest medical research, we will break down new treatments, prevention methods, detection methods, and more!
Melanoma Prevention and Early Detection Advances
Early detection and prevention are of course the ideal solutions to melanoma treatments. If melanoma goes undetected, the risk of major complications and death increases dramatically. New advances in early detection and prevention include screening for individuals with a higher risk of melanoma so that they can take the necessary steps to keep themselves safe. For example, certain gene mutations to CDKN2A, CDK4, P53, and MITF have all been linked to an increased risk for developing deadly melanoma.
Screenings for familial melanoma, family history, and inherited conditions can all help doctors to detect skin cancers and possibly prevent them altogether through common cancer-preventing methods such as covering up, utilizing proper sunscreen, and more. This is all in conjunction with ongoing efforts to understand what behaviors actually prevent/detect melanoma with the most efficacy. For example, teaching individuals to screen themselves for melanoma has been proven effective in recent years.
New Research into Melanoma Diagnostic Practices
Traditionally, diagnosing melanoma and other skin cancers involved taking a skin sample for biopsy. New techniques including reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) use optical biopsy techniques to examine the potentially cancerous areas without the need for skin removal. This will lead to fewer painful skin removal procedures for biopsy, faster diagnoses for abnormal moles, and generally lowering the bar when it comes to ease-of-use for melanoma screening. As of today, RCM has been widely accepted in Europe and is making its way to the United States slowly but surely. We expect this technology to expand in the coming years.
In addition to RCM, a new method of pre-biopsy known as adhesive patch testing has been introduced. This method utilizes a patch on the affected area to determine whether the skin has undergone any genetic changes which may indicate the presence of melanoma. If any of these genetic changes is detected, doctors can then move forward with a biopsy. If no genetic changes are found, doctors may opt to simply keep an eye on the trouble area.
Immunotherapy for Melanoma
Doctors from prestigious medical centers such as Johns Hopkins are working on developing immunotherapy treatments for melanoma which would essentially allow patient’s bodies to treat melanoma like a foreign invader. Essentially, these treatments can be thought of as rearranging our immune systems to recognize melanoma as the illness that it truly is, and our T cells would then detect and destroy the cancerous cells from the inside out. Early clinical trials have shown that this concept has the potential to fight not only melanoma, but certain other cancers as well, including non-small cell lung cancer and kidney cancer.
Immunotherapies for melanoma may also include newly developed melanoma vaccines. As of the writing of this article, melanoma vaccines are still very much in development. So far, they have been shown to be safe for outpatient use, but these vaccines require further clinical trials before they can be introduced for public use. Immunotherapies and genetic treatments appear to be the wave of the future when it comes to advanced melanoma treatments.
Adjuvant Therapy to Prevent Melanoma Recurrence
So far we have discussed advances in early detection, prevention, and treatment. Another key component in the total care for melanoma patients is preventing the cancer from recurring. Once melanoma has been completely removed from the body, patients still run a higher risk of additional battles with cancer for the remainder of their life. To lessen this risk, newly developed adjuvant therapies including dabrafenib (Tafinlar®) and trametinib (Mekinist®) have received FDA approval in recent years. These drugs are prescribed to patients who have had melanoma cancers surgically removed in the past.
Additional drug therapies including nivolumab (Opdivo®), encorafenib (Braftovi™), binimetinib (Mektovi™) may be used for different variations of melanoma. Adjuvant therapy is an often-overlooked but essential part of the melanoma treatment process. New drug therapies are sure to hit the market in coming years.
Learn More About the Latest Melanoma Breakthroughs at SCALE 2020
July 22-25th 2020 marks the 15th annual Symposium for Cosmetic Advances & Laser Education SCALE conference! Join us in Nashville to discuss cutting edge technology relating to melanoma research, aesthetic surgery, laser surgery, medical dermatology, atopic dermatitis, injectables, and just about everything in between. We are proud to hold our conference in the world famous Music City Convention Center in downtown Nashville, TN. Check back frequently to view our full list of exhibitors and event sponsors to find out who will be attending.