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Latest drugs, discoveries used to fight melanoma at Brown Cancer Center

It's a full-scale battle against melanoma. Surgery can cure the disease if detected early. but it becomes fatal if it spreads.

Dr. Jason Chesney, Brown Cancer Center

"Once melanoma spreads into other organs it becomes problematic to treat. In fact, ninety percent of patients will succumb to the disease."

That's why Dr. Jason Chesney and his colleagues at the Brown Cancer Center are throwing their latest discoveries at the disease. Chesney says cancer cells are formed when DNA gets damaged. The immune system sees these transformed cells and in most cases kills them. But this 'immune surveillance' doesn't always work.

Chesney continues

"What happens over time is the transformed cells hide from the immune system. The cancer cells figure out a way to keep proteins hidden so the immune system can't see it. What we're doing is trying to activate the immune system so they can see the cancer cells and kill them. Immunotherapy is using the immune system to kill cancer cells. We can take the healthy cells out of a patient, activate them in tissue culture, put them back in the patient and hope they fight cancer."

Other trials include the use of an agent that lights up cancer cells so the immune system can detect them and kill them. And another one uses an antibody that allows the activation of immune cells to kill cancer cells without hurting normal cells. The Brown Cancer Center is a regional referral center for melanoma.

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