Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drug Trial Puts Him Back in the Game; When Melanoma Returns, Patient Finds Hope in Clinical Trial at Baptist

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Drug Trial Puts Him Back in the Game; When Melanoma Returns, Patient Finds Hope in Clinical Trial at Baptist

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

For someone battling a potentially fatal form of cancer, getting enrolled in a clinical trial of a new drug can be a very good option, says Troy Guthrie, the medical director of research and education for the Baptist Cancer Institute.

"The drugs in these studies are cutting-edge," Guthrie said. "They are studying areas where there is an unmet need."

That's what 37-year-old Scott Nelson had been told. So when Nelson experienced a recurrence of melanoma for which he had first been treated in 2012, Nelson sought out a clinical trial for someone who, like him, had Stage IV metastatic melanoma. He found one at the Baptist Cancer Institute.

So far, it seems to be working. While Guthrie said that "caution is still needed," he also said that on Nelson's most recent scans, there are no signs of cancer.

The interesting thing is that neither Nelson nor Guthrie knows what drug it is that seems to be working for him. In the double-blind, randomized study, being conducted by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Nelson and four other patients are either taking one or both of the two medications.

Guthrie said that if it was "medically needed," he could find out which drugs each patient is receiving. But it hasn't been medically necessary.

The drugs involved in the study are pilimumab, approved by the FDA in 2011 and marketed as Yervoy, and nivolumab, a drug that does not yet have FDA approval and has no trade name. The drugs are administered every other week through an IV infusion. The drugs work by stimulating the creation of antibodies to fight the cancer, Guthrie said.

"Sometimes cancer cells become smart and hide from the normal immune system," Guthrie said. "These two drugs make the cancer more recognizable to the immune system. Your body recognizes it and makes antibodies to attack the cancer."

Nelson, a medical supplies salesman, was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2012 after his wife, Brea, noticed an oddly shaped mole on his left shoulder. Following surgery that August to remove the mole and several lymph nodes, scans detected no signs of cancer.

But in April 2013, he found a lump under his left arm. …

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