New hope for melanoma patients

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by Brandy Aguilar, Special Projects

azfamily.com

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Updated Thursday, May 24 at 9:10 PM

PHOENIX -- Melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers and is resistant to a lot of standard treatments.

One Valley woman has been battling the disease for nearly 10 years, but now has a new weapon to use in her fight.

“We like to go out on our utility terrain vehicle, but because of the surgeries on my arm, I haven't been able to do that,” Tara Beye said.

Beye, 39, loves the outdoors. But life as she knew it changed when she was diagnosed with melanoma.

“He says you have cancer and I just sat there,” Beye said. “I mean who expects to hear that at 30?”

Since her first diagnosis nine years ago, Beye’s melanoma has come back five times. This last one spread to her scalp.

“This was the first time it actually spread somewhere else,” Beye said.

Beye’s tried surgery and radiation to battle her cancer. Now she's a candidate for an outpatient treatment called Interleukin-2 at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear.
 
“Interleukin-2 is a messenger attack protein that asks the body’s white blood cells or the body's navy seals so to speak to go and find a target to go and find the enemy and seek it out and destroy it,” Dr. Walter Quan said.

Quan created the protocol to give this immunotherapy in an outpatient setting. Patients typically get this treatment while staying in the hospital for five days. 

“We give one dose a day for five days, every three weeks and we get in an average of 15 doses,” Quan said. “We get more medicine in over the course of time then you would try to get in over five days.”

“We find that in the weeks they're not in the therapy most people have a very normal lifestyle and people are even able to work,” Quan continued.

Once the doses are completed, Quan said the patient's cancer is then re-evaluated.
 
“In about a third of people treated in this fashion, their cancer shrinks significantly by at least half,” Quan stated. “In about five people out of 100, all the cancer disappears completely.”

A sign of hope Beye has been waiting for. She just started her treatment and the only side effects so far are headaches and being tired.

“Nobody looks forward to turning 40, but me I'm looking forward to my fortieth birthday which is coming up,” Beye said. “And I want to be able to say, I don't have cancer anymore and that I’m cancer free for at least a while.”

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Goodyear is the only place in the nation offering this as an outpatient treatment.

For more information log onto www.cancercenter.com

 

 

 

 

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