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UW Health's Work to Improve Care and Save Lives for Melanoma Patients

Caught early, malignant melanoma has a 99 percent survival rate beyond five years. When it spreads to distant sites, it almost always kills in less than a year, and no therapy has shown an overall impact on survival. The problem of melanoma is here and growing.

 

The American Cancer Society projects 62,480 new melanoma cases this year and 8,240 cancer deaths due to melanoma. The American Academy of Dermatology reports one in 58 men and women will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime.

 

At the University of Wisconsin Paul P. Carbone Cancer Center, we believe there is a real potential to make meaningful improvements in treatment and survival for patients with advanced melanoma. Dr. Mark Albertini, UW Health oncologist, leads the center's melanoma research efforts to understand malignant melanoma and investigate how the immune system functions in the disease. Dr. Albertini's research focus includes the broad topic of host immunity against melanoma and in understanding ways in which those host immune responses can be enhanced.

 

Dr. Albertini leads a multi-specialty group of individuals to provide the most comprehensive care for patients with melanoma. This group is comprised of specialists with expertise in pathology, dermatology, medical oncology, surgical oncology, plastic surgery, ENT and ophthalmology at UW Hospital and Clinics.

 

They are a working group that meets on a regular basis and have frequent communication on questions that arise about management of patients with melanoma. The integration of specialists from multiple departments allows our physicians to have greater access to clinical trials and innovative research studies on melanoma and other cancers.

 

Dr. Albertini is also the leader of the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center Melanoma Disease Oriented Working Group (DOWG) and is committed to enhancing melanoma research activities at the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center. These activities include utilizing the melanoma DOWG to provide an infrastructure for melanoma activities at the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center as well as initiation of new melanoma research activities and collaborations.

 

Examples of experimental initiatives by members of the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center melanoma DOWG include laboratory studies of chemoprevention (Dr. Gary Wood's study of green tea [EGCG] and Dr. Arthur Polans study of resveratrol); experimental therapeutics studies by Dr. Mark Albertini and Dr. Paul Sondel (clinical testing of hu14.18-IL2; DNA vaccines; early phase clinical studies); and cell signaling studies by Dr. Vijay Setaluri and Dr. Jack Longley.

 

The melanoma DOWG includes interacting investigators with research laboratories that work together in the fight against melanoma. The melanoma DOWG resources also include:

  • Clinical research team with expertise in translation of investigator concepts into investigator-initiated clinical trials.
  • Clinical practice including many patients with early, regional, and advanced melanoma that provides opportunity for translational clinical studies.

There is a real possibility for meaningful improvements in the treatment of melanoma patients, as significant new scientific insights are now present that are very relevant to melanoma patients. The imperative is to take theories and concepts from the laboratory benchtop to the patient's bedside. The UW Comprehensive Cancer Center melanoma DOWG is committed to finding meaningful new insights for melanoma patients.