May is melanoma awareness month. Health experts say the rate of this cancer is continuing to rise, especially in women under 40 and men over 60.
Researchers are now testing a new therapy for patients with advanced melanoma that has been tough to treat.
Steve and Janie Balzer have been married for 45 years and have been together since their high school junior prom. Steve was just about to retire from his job as an electric company lineman when he felt a stabbing pain in his arm.
“Next thing I know, this lump’s popping up. It’s maybe as big as your thumb. You know, it’s on my arm and I’m like ‘Eh, I must’ve blew out a muscle or tendon.'” said Steve Balzer.
Steve was diagnosed with stage four melanoma.
“It was scary.” said Janie Balzer.
Steve had surgery but decided to skip additional treatments because of the side effects. Three years later, the cancer came back in his lymph nodes. This time, Dr. Diwakar Davar had a new option, a clinical trial combining Opdivo, an immunotherapy currently used in melanoma treatment, and an injection of another drug known as CMP-001.
“The combination that we’ve developed works about 60-70% of the time. So, it represents a substantial and significant improvement upon the effect of Opdivo alone.” Dr. Davar said.
Steve liked the idea behind the treatment.
“Jack up your immune system and shoot this CMP right into the tumor. We’re going to train your immune system to go after that thing.” Said Steve Balzer.
It worked! Giving them more time with their eight grandkids, and each other.