News & Press

Is a Cure in Sight?

HILLSBOROUGH, N.J.—The recent debut of “The Big C” on Showtime has placed some of Hollywood’s spotlight on melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.  The show features award-winning actress Laura Linney as Cathy Jamison, a middle-aged woman who receives a diagnosis of stage IV melanoma, and the storyline follows her pursuit to enjoy life and find peace in her diagnosis.

Yet “The Big C” bypasses one of the key issues that people with melanoma face – the difficulties in navigating the limited choices in treatment.  Linney’s character chooses no treatment, in contrast to the majority of melanoma patients who work tirelessly to find the best therapeutic option for themselves.  

In recent years, new drugs have shown promise and these advances give people with melanoma reason to seek out care.  “We strongly believe that, unlike Linney’s character, those who have been diagnosed should consider the full range of options that are available to them in fighting melanoma, from surgery to approved treatments and promising clinical trials,” said Tim Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF).  

Progress in expanding options for those with advanced melanoma has received significant media coverage recently, particularly news from the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held in June.  A new study was presented that found promising results for those diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, and showed an improved overall survival for the first time in 30 years.  There has not been a new drug approved for those with advanced melanoma in over a decade.

Increasingly, scientists and researchers suspect that there is no single drug that will effectively treat melanoma and believe that a combination or “cocktail” of drugs may be the answer to treating advanced melanoma.  However, it can be difficult to coordinate clinical trials for drugs that are held by different companies and may not yet be approved and are still in trial phases.

To accelerate research and options for patients, the MRF formed the MRF Breakthrough Consortium in 2009 to bring together researchers, the government and pharmaceutical companies, and chart a novel path to developing therapies through clinical trials that have previously not been possible.  

 “While Linney’s lack of fight is not what we typically see in people with melanoma, her character’s choices and the real-life experiences of melanoma patients highlights exactly why we need this concerted push for research,” said Turnham.  “Patients need answers now, not later, and while there has been some promising progress, better coordination and information sharing will help support the next big breakthrough.”

Research shows that the majority of melanomas can be successfully removed and monitored by regular skin screenings in its early stages, but the disease is particularly deadly in its most advanced stages as few treatment options exist.  The median lifespan for patients with advanced melanoma is less than one year.  While the MRF advocates for better treatments and works to ensure patients are fully informed of their treatment options, people with melanoma sometimes opt for end-of-life care, and the MRF works to provide support patients through all stages of the disease.

The MRF supports medical research for finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma.  It also educates patients and physicians about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.  

 “Those who have been diagnosed need to know that there are options and that patient support is available,” said Turnham.  “Our programs are designed specifically to educate and empower those affected by melanoma.  We sincerely hope that viewers of “The Big C” will come away with an understanding of the need for action, research and hope.”

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About Melanoma

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and can strike men and women of all ages, all races and skin types.  In fact, with a one in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 69,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2010, resulting in 8,700 deaths or one person every hour.  Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25- to 29-years-old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15- to 29-years-old.

About Melanoma Research Foundation

The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent, national organization devoted to melanoma in the United States.  Committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma, the MRF also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of melanoma.  The MRF is an active advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for a cure.  The MRF’s website is the premier source for melanoma information seekers.  More information is available at www.melanoma.org.  

Cosmopolitan magazine has partnered with the MRF to educate people about the importance of sun safety.  Cosmo readers can receive an awareness bracelet with a $10 donation or more to the MRF. The fundraising drive is part the magazine’s ongoing “Practice Safe Sun” campaign to combat the high rate of skin cancer among young women.  To get yours now, text MRF followed by a space then the amount of your donation to 27138 or visit www.firstgiving.com/cosmopolitan.