Arizona man battling melanoma with new treatment

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MIAMI, Ariz. -- A Miami, Ariz., man is battling melanoma with the newest treatment to hit the market in more than 10 years.

"I had something growing on my neck right here,” Jim Platner said. “It didn't bother me for a long time."
It wasn't until Platner came home from a long motorcycle ride two years ago that he knew something was wrong.
"We had been riding quite a bit and my protective gear where my collar is and everything kind of got irritated and that's when I had it first checked out,” Platner said.

He had melanoma. The most dangerous type of skin cancer.

"It was all pretty scary, you know,” Platner said. “Cancer is a scary thing."

It was removed and everything was going well until this past November. The melanoma not only came back, but it had spread to other parts of Platner’s body.
"They told me I had a tumor on my neck and my spine between my shoulder blades and I had cancer in my right hip,” Platner said.

He had surgery followed by radiation, but still felt more could be done. So Platner turned to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Goodyear. There he became the first patient to be treated with a new FDA-approved drug called Yervoy.

"I'm really excited about the drug because that really brings up the hope factor,” Platner said.

"It's basically an antibody that works to stimulate the body's immune system to help fight melanoma,” said medical oncologist Salman Malad. "It's a little bit different from typical chemotherapy. The exciting part is it's the first drug really approved in a very long time that's actually been shown to improve the survival in advance stage melanoma patients."

Malad said the drug is given every three weeks for a total of four treatments.

"It's not until those 12 weeks are up that we can really start measuring whether a patient had any type of response or not,” Malad continued.

Despite its potential, Yervoy has serious side effects, including fatigue, diarrhea, skin rash and inflammation of the intestines. So far Platner has had two treatments.

"Unfortunately, with any stage four melanomas, we can't promise them or say that they're going to be cured of it,” Malad said. “What our goals are at that point is to make it manageable or controlled as possible. Shrink down the disease burden as best as we can and hopefully by doing that improve his quality of life and overall survival.”

It’s a sign of hope that Platner continues to hold on to everyday.
“I'm looking forward to try and beat the disease here,” Platner said. “So I'm real glad to be here.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America