Melanoma Patients Benefit from New Treatments Immunotherapy and targeted therapy - two modern day buzzwords in the treatment of cancer. What used to seem hypothetical is now reality. Advanced melanoma is one success story. “For years we used Interferon which is a broad immune system stimulator. Unfortunately it does have side effect. As more was discovered about melanomas we started to understand where the immune system was not functioning properly,” says oncologist Frank Rodriguez, M.D. Dr. Rodriguez is on medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System. By understanding how particular cancers replicate, researchers developed ways to hinder the process, which is the fundamental of immunotherapy. “Yervoy is something that we use to accelerate the immune function. In accelerating the immune function it identifies and destroys these melanoma cells,” Dr. Rodriguez says. Combating cancer with medication often takes several different treatments to out-smart the cells and exploit their duplication. The FDA recently approved a second drug that targets melanoma, setting up a dynamic duo. “Melanoma cells are able to disguise themselves or camouflage themselves within our bodies. And what Keytruda does is it removes that camouflage. It makes them visible to the immune system,” says Dr. Rodriguez. By exposing the cancer cells, the immunotherapy drugs can mount their attack. This powerful combo is having significant results. “Which is really an exciting thing, not just because we have a new drug, but because it opens the door to a whole new way of targeting these cells.” The future is coming to fruition- researchers are evaluating these drugs for use in lung cancer and others that replicate in the same manner. View More Health Matters video segments at Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Visit