Friday, August 14, 2009

Introducing Dr Venna

I had my regular three month dermatological checkup on Wednesday where I met the replacement for Dr Peck who recently retired. Dr Venna has come all the way from the University of California, San Francisco where he specialized in Melanoma.

He was particularly interested in trying to get me involved in an upcoming clinical trial at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania regarding a BRAF gene mutation known as V600E. He had been in contact with Dr Flaherty who will be running the study to get enrollment information. The experimental drug is called PLX4032 from Plexxicon Inc.

There is a known mutation in 70% of melanoma cells called BRAF. If tests show that my melanoma cells have this BRAF mutation, studies show that I have a better than 50% shot at having tumor shrinkage or disease stability. This is a chemotherapy drug. It is orally administered and studies show that it is highly targeted and brings with it very low toxicity. Side effects which rarely occur are skin rashes on the hands and feet. This new trial opens up on September 1 and is a phase II clinical trial which means that all participants will receive the real drug at the full dose. I plan to at lease get the blood test to see if I am eligible for this study.

Brief Information about PLX4032.

I asked Dr Venna about his take on my IL-2 response. He agrees that with tumor resolution of the left adrenal gland that my body did in fact show a response. He recommended that I continue that treatment and begin another course. There is nothing stopping me from receiving both treatments, just not at the same time.

Dr Venna will also be in contact with my other oncologists. He’s already placed several phone calls to the vacationing Dr Sharfman. Amy and I have been joking that the ladies who answer the phones for Dr Sharfman are probably tired of hearing my name by now. That’s okay, they were not that friendly to begin with. Knowing that I will probably never get to be part of the discussion when NIH and Dr Sharfman talk to discuss their findings. Dr Venna told me that he would get that information and help me understand the result of that meeting.

How does Mexico play into this? I’ve actually not heard back from them after I sent the blood work results. I need to call them today and see if I can get an update. I think it’s all a matter of timing. Since there will probably be a few weeks between now and when I can start another course of IL-2, I might be spending that time sitting on the beaches of Mexico.

I welcome Dr Venna to the Washington Hospital Center and to my melanoma treatment team. I think his interest and involvement is just what I need to help me identify the correct plan of attack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad to have Dr. Venna on board - a welcome fresh approach into your case.

Did the doctor say how much time is needed between treatments of the IL-2 and PLX4032, if that is the route you decide to take?

Some time spent on the beaches of Mexico... sounds healing in of itself.

Keep up your (and Amy's!) positive outlook and proactive measures. Continue to post so that we are all aware.