Super Patient: Peter Fortenbaugh Faces the Uncertainty of Pioneering Melanoma Treatment


In spring of 2014, Peter Fortenbaugh noticed what appeared to be a tick that had bitten his lower calf. “It turned out not to be a tick, but it didn’t really go away,” he says.

The spot began to grow and bulge, and in October, Peter showed it to his primary care doctor, who referred him to a dermatologist to remove it. At the time, Peter recalls, it did not occur to him that the growth could be serious.

“I was actually very concerned about skin cancer because I spent a lot of time out in the sun sailing,” Peter says. “I put on a tremendous amount of sunscreen and protection, but never on my legs…I never connected the dots.”

However, a biopsy of the growth came back positive for melanoma. Peter, who lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and three children, immediately reached out to several doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area, and all had the same advice: “Take it out, take a biopsy.” Continue reading…


Concerns That Rosy Direct-To-Consumer Ads Hype Cancer Drugs To Vulnerable Patients

Excerpt:

“A few weeks ago, I was watching veg-out TV, quietly wondering to myself how a show called ‘Pure Genius’ could be so darned dumb.

“Then a commercial break added a new sort of mystification: A long, vivid ad touted the cancer drug Opdivo, a form of immunotherapy — an exciting new type of treatment that harnesses the body’s own immune system — for lung cancer.

“Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer, so, in this anomalous country that allows direct-to-consumer drug ads, it was no surprise to see a lung cancer ad on network TV.”

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Frontline Immunotherapy Combo Setbacks Strike NSCLC

Excerpt:

“Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and AstraZeneca have each announced separate delays in the development of PD-1 and CTLA-4 inhibitor combinations as first-line therapies for patients with advanced or metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to statements from each of the companies.

“In its statement, BMS noted that it would not be pursuing an accelerated approval for the combination of nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) as a frontline therapy for NSCLC. Instead, the company plans to delay the submission of data to the FDA until findings from a phase III study are available, most likely from the phase III CheckMate-227 trial.”

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Bristol Won’t Seek Faster Opdivo/Yervoy Lung Cancer Approval

Excerpt:

“Bristol-Myers Squibb Co on Thursday said it has decided not to seek accelerated U.S. approval for a combination of its two immunotherapy drugs as an initial treatment for lung cancer.

“Shares of Bristol, which closed at $55.49 on the New York Stock Exchange, were down 6.2 percent at $52.08 after hours.

“The pharmaceutical company cited ‘a review of data available at this time’ for the decision to hold off on filing for Food and Drug Administration approval of the combination of its cancer drugs Opdivo and Yervoy.”

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Cancers Evade Immunotherapy by ‘Discarding the Evidence’ of Tumor-Specific Mutations

Excerpt:

“Results of an initial study of tumors from patients with lung cancer or head and neck cancer suggest that the widespread acquired resistance to immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors may be due to the elimination of certain genetic mutations needed to enable the immune system to recognize and attack malignant cells. The study, conducted by researchers on the cells of five of their patients treated at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, is described online Dec. 28 in Cancer Discovery.”

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Immunotherapy Looks ‘Promising’ in Malignant Mesothelioma

Excerpt:

“Immunotherapy is now offering hope even in one of the most aggressive cancers of all, malignant pleural mesothelioma.

“Malignant mesothelioma is usually diagnosed at a late stage and is essentially incurable. The median overall survival is approximately 12 months with first-line chemotherapy, and median survival with second-line therapy, which has not yet been adequately defined, is typically less than 10 months.

“Early clinical results with the programmed cell death (PD) inhibitors nivolumab (Opdivo, Bristol-Myers Squibb) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck & Co) show response, yielding survival rates that appear to be improvements on what has been seen historically with chemotherapy.”

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Neoadjuvant Nivolumab Appears Safe and Feasible in Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“Neoadjuvant immunotherapy with the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitor nivolumab (Opdivo) is safe and feasible in early-stage non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The results come from the first report of PD-1 blockade prior to surgery in this tumor, according to Patrick Forde, MD, of The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, who reported these findings at the 2016 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress.”

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Neoadjuvant Nivolumab Appears Safe and Feasible in Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“Neoadjuvant immunotherapy with the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) inhibitor nivolumab (Opdivo) is safe and feasible in early-stage non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The results come from the first report of PD-1 blockade prior to surgery in this tumor, according to Patrick Forde, MD, of The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, who reported these findings at the 2016 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress.

” ‘Thirty-nine percent of patients with early-stage NSCLC treated with two doses of nivolumab had major pathologic responses associated with immune cell infiltration of tumor,’ Dr. Forde reported. ‘One hypothesis is that having tumor in situ when you give anti–PD-1—having more antigen present—may be better than giving it in the adjuvant setting, where only micrometastases may be present.’ ”

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Nivolumab Combinations Feasible for Newly Diagnosed GBM

Excerpt:

“The PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab (Opdivo) was successfully combined with radiotherapy alone or concurrently with temozolomide for patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in cohorts 1c and 1d from the phase I CheckMate-143 study, according to findings presented at the 2016 Society for Neuro-Oncology Annual Meeting.

” ‘The research question was if treatment with nivolumab to block immune checkpoint pathways could potentiate an antitumor immune response and have synergistic effects with radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy in patients with newly diagnosed GBM,’ stated first author by Antonio Omuro, MD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.”

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