Jimmy Carter is Cancer Free!

Former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer is gone!

As you may recall, in August, President Carter had been diagnosed with cancer in his liver and elsewhere in his body.  He had a portion of his liver removed and he was sent to Emory University, in Atlanta, GA for further testing. There it was revealed that the cancer in his liver is actually malignant melanoma, and that he had 4 small lesions in his brain as well as the tumor his liver.

Carter underwent  a single course of radiation treatment to his brain, then received four rounds of a new immune system-boosting drug.  The infusion of pembrolizumab, better known as Keytruda®, which was administered at three-week intervals.

A follow-up MRI was recently done to assess his progress. Carter, speaking to the Sunday School class he teaches at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia reported:

“My most recent MRI brain scan did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones. I will continue to receive regular three-week immunotherapy treatments of pembrolizumab.”

New Treatment Options for Melanoma

Since 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved no fewer than six new drug treatments for melanoma.  These treatments fall into two categories:

  • Molecularly targeted therapies are drugs that directly counteract the effects of mutations in genes that “drive” tumor cells.  These drugs include vemurafenib (Zelboraf), dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist).
  • Immunotherapies are drugs that help the body’s own immune system to eliminate cancer cells. Ipilimumab (Yervoy), pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) are in this category and are given by injection.

Combination therapy with two drugs, dabrafenib and trametinib, has become a standard treatment strategy. New research suggests that administering immunotherapy first, and keeping targeted therapy as a backup, might increase the chances of longer-term benefits for patients.

 

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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