Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Meeting with Dr Kirkwood at UPMC in Pittsburgh.

Amy and I drove for 3.5 hours on our way to meet Dr Kirkwood at the Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh. I've done a bit of reading and was excited to finally get a chance to meet with him and hear another medical opinion about my situation. Coming into the meeting I still did not have my results from the second CT scan so my goal was simply to find out what kind of therapies were available and find out how they differ from the ones already being offered.

One of the first things that I learned is that the use of Interferon has been seen to be quite effective against stage IV melanoma. This was not an option presented by Johns Hopkins since it is not approved by the FDA as a standard therapy for advanced cancer. Researchers at UPMC have have been using it along with experimental drugs in a trial setting and have been seeing good results.

Another interesting treatment option comes in the form of a cancer vaccine trial. There is an antigen identified as Gp100 that is part of each melanocyte. (Normal cell that produces melanin) Researchers have discovered how to target these Gp100 antigens with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (white blood cells). The thought is that these transformed white blood cells can now target and attack the melanoma tumors. This vaccine trial seems very close to the Adoptive Cell Therapy treatment being offered by Dr Rosenberg at NCI. And since Dr Rosenberg has published articles on the topic of identifying this so called Gp100 antigen, it would be nice to hear his take on the differences of the two treatments.

I liked both of these treatment options but now I have to compare them to the ones I originally received locally. Amy and I are going to put together a questionnaire of sorts that will help us identify the pros and cons of each treatment. Once all of the facts are in, we will be able to make our decision.

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