Denver Plastic Surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Raval Hails Melanoma Skin Cancer Breakthrough

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The medical director of Rocky Mountain Laser Aesthetics says the promising new drug ipilimumab gives hope to skin cancer patients and raises awareness for sun damage, which is especially prevalent in Colorado.

Over the last 30 years, studies haven’t shown an increase in survival for patients with advanced melanoma. It’s an extremely difficult disease to treat

Cancer researchers convening at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO) annual conference in Chicago in early June reported significant new gains in the fight against melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and one of the most pernicious forms of any cancer.

Denver plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey R. Raval, MD FACS, medical director of Rocky Mountain Laser Aesthetics, hailed the news that an experimental new drug, ipilimumab, may significantly improve the survival rate of melanoma patients with very advanced disease as quite promising.

“Colorado is among the worse states in the country for the incidence of melanoma and skin cancer, and deaths associated with them, and this news is a welcome, hopeful sign that progress against a deadly disease is being made,” said Dr. Raval. “As a medical professional and a practitioner deeply involved with skin care, I can say from experience that we need more tools in the battle again melanoma, especially here in Colorado.”

According to the ASCO, the antibody drug Ipilimumab improved the long-term survival rate in previously treated advanced melanoma patients. A Phase III trial featured in an ASCO plenary session at the Chicago conference finds that patients with advanced, previously treated melanoma who received the monoclonal antibody ipilimumab lived 34 percent longer than those who received the immune-stimulating gp100 peptide vaccine. The clinical trial is the first randomized study to find an improvement in survival for advanced melanoma, which has few treatment options. The drug, according to the study, works by helping to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight tumors, and researchers reported that the Food and Drug Administration pledged a quick review which could make its use widely available by the end of 2010.

“Over the last 30 years, studies haven’t shown an increase in survival for patients with advanced melanoma. It’s an extremely difficult disease to treat,” said lead researcher Steven O’Day, MD, Chief of Research and Director of the Melanoma Program at The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute in Los Angeles, and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. “These results are an important advance for patients with advanced melanoma.”

Average survival was 10 months with ipilimumab versus just over 6 months for the others, which worked out to a 67 percent improvement in survival for those on the drug, O'Day added.

Medical authorities reported that an estimated 68,000 adults -- 39,000 men and 29,000 women -- in the U. S. were diagnosed with melanoma in 2009, which resulted in some 8,600 deaths -- 5,500 among men and 3,100 women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list Colorado among the nation’s leading states for melanoma cases, in the range of 23.1 to 28.8 persons per 100,000 population, and for deaths as a result of the disease, a range of 3.0 to 3.7 persons per 100,000 population.

Raval noted that the development of such a promising treatment for melanoma as ipilimumab is critical for cancer patients, of course, but is also important to raise awareness throughout the population about the danger of sun exposure.

“We all know that sun damage that can lead to diseases like melanoma is very high in Colorado, and we have seen in our practice many people looking for cosmetic laser treatments to treat sun damage,” said Dr. Raval. “People should be very aware that over-exposure to the sun, or indeed even tanning booths and salons, can manifest over time in excessive wrinkles, skin spots and even such dire consequences as skin cancer.”

Rocky Mountain Laser Aesthetics, based in Denver’s popular Cherry Creek North neighborhood, offers a number of cosmetic procedures and laser treatments to rejuvenate f the face, reduce hair growth, remove tattoos, and to diminish spider veins, melisma, skin tags, age spots, freckles and more. In addition to laser treatments, the firm also features such anti-aging injectable treatment as Restylane, Juvederm and Botox, among many other popular aesthetics.

For more information on the array of services offered by Dr. Raval through Rocky Mountain Laser Aesthetics http://www.rockymountain laser.com/ or call 303.985.8520.

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