Melanoma on Trial

More than Skin Deep

For decades, St. Jude scientists and clinicians have been working to improve melanoma treatment. A recently completed clinical trial, headed by Navid, was the first study to use a medication called pegylated alpha-interferon in children with high-risk melanoma.

Asa was one of 30 patients to take part in that study, which included surgery to remove the lesion and any affected lymph nodes, plus treatment with a new formulation of interferon. Navid says preliminary results indicate the drug was well tolerated by study participants. Headaches and fatigue were the only side effects mentioned by Asa, who continued participating in gymnastics competitions and taking care of his pony while undergoing treatment.

St. Jude is offering three clinical trials for children with advanced melanoma:

  • One study involves an antibody that seek outs and destroys specific cancer cells. This trial is open to patients with recurrent neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma or melanoma.
  • Another study is offered to certain melanoma patients who have a mutation in the BRAF gene. A new medicine has been designed to target the BRAF mutation, which is involved in about half of all melanomas.
  • A third trial is studying a drug called ipilimumab. “Normally, your immune system has brakes to prevent it from going crazy,” says Alberto Pappo, MD, of St. Jude Oncology. “Ipilimumab inhibits those brakes and lets your immune system kill the melanoma.”

Abridged from Promise, Summer 2013

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