Doctors in South Dakota are using recently-approved drugs to help patients fight cancer. Former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma diagnosis highlights treatment that includes both radiation and IV immune therapy. Similar treatments may work for cancer patients in South Dakota.
Melanoma is one type of skin cancer. Doctor Marcus Frohm says about 75,000 people will get melanoma this year, and traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation may be necessary.
The Sanford Health dermatologist says new therapies can improve results for cancer patients. Frohm says some drugs can prime the body’s immune system.
“Melanoma can be a little be sneaky in that it has some receptors on the tumor cells that will tell your immune system, ‘Go away. Don’t bother me,’ to kind of tone down the immune system, and these drugs act in a way to block that interaction with the immune system and they can kind of keep your T cells active and keep your own immune system destroying the melanoma,” Frohm says.
Frohm says the Food and Drug Administration has approved multiple targeted and immunotherapies in just the last five years. He says they show incredible results.
“The data has been ridiculously promising. When you start looking at numbers and things and seeing that 30 or 40 percent of people respond to the medication, that may not seem like a great deal,” Frohm says. “But, when we’re talking about five to 10 percent of people responding to our traditional therapy, it’s a really promising kind of breakthrough over the course of the last few years.”
Frohm says skin cancer is unique in that it is serious but not overly dangerous when caught early, but if left untreated can spread viciously throughout the body to other organs including the brain.