Possible breakthrough in skin cancer research - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Possible breakthrough in skin cancer research

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PHOENIX -

British researchers call it a new era of cancer treatments. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, is reporting that a new combination of drugs is already saving one in six patients with melanoma skin cancer.

We talked to a Phoenix dermatologist about the possible breakthrough.

Phoenix is known as the skin cancer capital of the country. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma generally caused by the sun are slow growing and usually treatable.

But when a patient gets melanoma, if it's not cut out in time, it can become a death sentence. The doctor we talked to is hopeful about new research out of Europe.

"A little mole you know smaller than an inch might already be in your blood system and it's at that time it can spread to your other organs. Your liver your lungs and your brain," says Dr. Bill Halmi, dermatologist at Arizona Advanced Dermatology.

Dr. Bill Halmi believes that new research could produce a cure for deadly melanoma.

"This study's promising so it's like a good direction to go in."

According to the Daily Mail, clinicians at Cancer Research UK are using two types of drugs to fight cancer by boosting the immune system -- instead of chemotherapy that just focuses on destroying the cancer.

"Ipilimumab is the one that helps your T-cells, your white cells just go unchecked and give a bigger boost to try to fight infection or foreign bodies like melanoma."

So, while the cells are being boosted the drugs are breaking down the diseases.

"They also use an antibody to stop the cancer from masking itself. What cancer cells do sometimes is mask themselves from other immune cells."

61-year-old Dino Castelli spends every other weekend surfing in San Diego. He's been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma dozens of times over the past 18 years. He's always feared melanoma but the new research eases his mind.

"Everybody's been losing the battle so maybe somebody's got the right direction to go," says Castelli.

Dr. Halmi believes many more studies will need to be done using these drugs. Doctors in Europe believe melanoma could become curable for more than half of patients within five to ten years.

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