Tag Archive for: skin cancer

An Expert’s Perspective on Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Research

An Expert’s Perspective on Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Research from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the latest in advanced non-melanoma skin cancer research? Dr. Sunandana Chandra shares an update on emerging treatments and provides reliable resources for research news.

Dr. Sunandana Chandra is a medical oncologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. Learn more about Dr. Chandra.


Are there developments in advanced non-melanoma skin cancer treatment and research that patients should know about? 

Dr. Chandra:

So, you know, in the past, as a medical oncologist, we used to use a lot of chemotherapy.  

So, these are drugs that are notoriously hard to tolerate. Patients, understandably, are fearful of them and many of them don’t want them. They’ve seen friends and family go through them. And frankly, they have not been the most effective or efficacious in treating non-melanoma skin cancers, traditionally. But in the past, that’s all we had.

Now, we actually have much better therapies, specifically, the category of drugs called immunotherapy drugs that really boost a person’s own immune system to fight the cancer. These drugs are fairly new in the cancer world, and certainly new in the non-melanoma skin cancer world, and so, many of our colleagues in the community may not necessarily think of them when they’re considering patients.  

Perhaps, a lot of our patients haven’t even gotten a chance to hear about them. So, yes. There are new developments that I think are worth considering earlier and earlier in the course of a person’s treatment course. And so, I think an earlier referral to these multidisciplinary team members, including a medical oncologist, may not be a bad idea. 


How can patients stay up-to-date on developing research? What’s available for them? 

Dr. Chandra:

So, you know there are skin cancer patient advocacy websites that they can check out, skincancer.org. I always tell patients to be careful about what website they’re checking, because I certainly want them to go to a website that’s reputable, that’s vetted, that is something that we think has accurate information that’s evidence-based.  

And so, AIM at Melanoma has a non-melanoma skin cancer educational website. It’s called SCERF, which is Skin Cancer Education and Research Foundation, and you can find that through the aimatmelanoma.org website. You can look at skincancers.org, you can try with American Cancer Society, or you can even ask your clinical care team and see if they have any suggestions. There’s a lot of resources out there. I would just urge our patients to be careful in what source they’re looking at just make sure that they’re getting accurate, evidence-based information.

Should Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Patients See a Specialist?

Should Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Patients See a Specialist? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Do advanced non-melanoma skin cancer patients need to see a specialist? Dr. Sunandana Chandra explains the benefits of working with a specialist, how she empowers patients, and when she recommends seeking a second opinion.

Dr. Sunandana Chandra is a medical oncologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. Learn more about Dr. Chandra.


Why is it important that patients speak up and have a voice in their care? 

Dr. Chandra:  

Well, I think for person to feel empowered, they have to understand their cancer, in my opinion. 

And that’s part of my responsibility is to try to share what I know about their cancer, my medical and clinical experience dealing with that type of cancer, and really, to try to empower them by giving them knowledge about their cancer, about their diagnosis, about the prognosis, about potential treatment options. And, I really think that that knowledge is really empowering for our patients and their family members, and I think with that knowledge, they can make the most informed decision, and they can help us then figure out what the best management plan for them is. You know, I try to spend a considerable amount of time with my patients and their family members and loved ones to explain all of this at the get-go so that that way, oftentimes, they can go home, they can kind of think about it, come back with more questions. 

Or, if they do some additional research on their own, hopefully some of what I’ve talked about might resonate and might even spur on more questions that usually can be very helpful for us to try to answer, helpful for the patient, I mean. 


Absolutely. Should patients consider seeing an advanced non-melanoma skin cancer specialist? 

Dr. Chandra:

You know, for a “routine” non-melanoma skin cancer of which the most common are basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, they may be tiny spots, maybe one, potentially multiple, that can just be excised and the person can be followed closely. For them, perhaps seeing someone locally, maybe very reasonable.   

But, if the patient themselves is ever worried or unsure, or they feel like they want to see a specialist, I absolutely would encourage that. In addition, for a person who has recurrent non-melanoma skin cancers, you know, multiple occurrences, maybe even more advanced than others, I think that those particular patients going to a specialist or a number of specialists may really help with the most advanced care. Maybe it’ll allow the patient and their team to be more proactive, maybe allow for other options that are maybe not standards of care, maybe novel, but promising.  

And so, I think for patients who are worried or for patients with more high-risk features, more increased number of skin cancers, perhaps more advanced skin cancers, I think having an expert or a team of experts on their team is certainly worth considering. 


What is your advice for patients who may feel like they’re hurting your feelings by seeking a specialist or a second opinion? Any advice for self-advocacy? 

Dr. Chandra:

Oh, gosh. I mean, I always tell our patients I strongly encourage it if they bring up especially. You know, I never want to patient of mine or their family members to look back and have any regrets. And so, from the get-go, I think that they should seek opinions. They should feel comfortable with the management that I or someone else is recommending to them.  

And, if a person asks me if it’s okay if they seek an opinion, I’m actually very encouraging of it because it doesn’t hurt my feelings. In fact, I think, again, it empowers the patient, which at the end of the day I think is most important and allows, hopefully, for them to have no regrets. And, I always tell patients more heads are better than one. So, if a colleague has another idea that perhaps I didn’t think of or vice versa, having that discussion and ultimately, that may allow for better patient care, which I think is all of our goals, which is actually our ultimate goal, I should say. 

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment Options

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment Options from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are the treatment options for advanced non-melanoma skin cancer? Dr. Sunandana Chandra shares insight on how a treatment approach is determined, the types of non-melanoma skin cancer, and discusses factors considered when choosing therapy. 

Dr. Sunandana Chandra is a medical oncologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. Learn more about Dr. Chandra.


How is advanced non-melanoma skin cancer treated? 

Dr. Chandra:

So, usually, the first thing that might occur is a biopsy to see what it is that we think that we’re dealing with. A biopsy is then reviewed by a pathologist or a dermatopathologist, and then those results are then relayed back to the doctor who did the biopsy. 

Oftentimes, it’s a dermatologist, a primary care doctor etc. Once we have the exact diagnosis and the exact pathology, we can then talk about, okay, is this removable? Is this excisable? In that situation, a dermatologist can do it; a Mohs surgeon who is a sub-specialized dermatologist can do it. In certain instances, they may say this is a larger spot, it’s a spot, etcetera, so they then may involve our surgeons or our surgical oncologists. Now, the vast majority of non-melanoma skin cancers are treated by surgery alone. They’re just excised or removed, and then the person is followed closely.  

However, there are certainly situations when a person’s non-melanoma skin cancer, meaning a Merkel cell carcinoma, a cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, or a basal cell carcinoma being the three most common non-melanoma skin cancers. 

There are situations where those are too big to respect or to surgically remove. Potentially, it may cause too much disfigurement. Potentially a person or a patient may feel that they are just sick of surgery. They want no further surgery. In those instances, those patients are then often referred to medical oncologists. These are cancer doctors who treat the cancer with systemic or whole body cancer drugs and/or radiation oncologists who can use radiation beams to often treat the cancer. 


Dr. Chandra, when you’re deciding on a treatment plan for a patient, what factors are taken into consideration? 

Dr. Chandra:

So, usually, first and foremost, we have to get to know our patient and understand their own preferences, what their own goals of care are with respect to how they want to live their life, how aggressive or not they would like to be with respect to their cancer management, their functional status, which we technically call performance and status, their other illnesses or comorbidities that may kind of complicated cancer management.  

For example, people with autoimmune diseases who are on steroids, or people who have uncontrolled diabetes, these are just two examples of a potential infinite list of a person’s comorbidities or illnesses that they may have that may complicate things. All of these are taken into consideration. And, I think at the end of the day, we as their doctor want to do what’s best for them and what makes the most sense to them and for them, but certainly, it takes a very detailed discussion with our patients, their loved ones, their family members, caregivers, as well as our multidisciplinary team members to kind of figure out what the next best steps are.  

Dr. Chandra:

I think this is a time where if a person is diagnosed with a non-melanoma skin cancer, I want them to know that there are options out there, options that were not even available a decade ago, certainly, maybe even five years ago that have really revolutionized how we treat our patients with advanced non-melanoma skin cancers. And so, the sooner they reach out for help, I think the better the outcomes are. So, we are here to help those particular patients to the best of our ability.  

Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Who Is on Your Healthcare Team?

Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Who Is on Your Healthcare Team? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What experts make up an advanced non-melanoma skin cancer care team? Dr. Sunandana Chandra shares an overview of typical team members who work together for optimal patient care.

Dr. Sunandana Chandra is a medical oncologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. Learn more about Dr. Chandra.


People with advanced non-melanoma skin cancer typically need a multidisciplinary team. Who all is on that team? 

Dr. Chandra:

So, typically the members of a multidisciplinary team include a dermatologist, including potentially a Mohs surgeon if one is available, a surgeon or a surgical oncologist, a pathologist, specifically, a dermatopathologist, if they’re available, because they really focus on scan pathology.  

A medical oncologist, a radiologist who could help us read the imaging, and a radiation oncologist who can actually use radiation to treat certain spots. Now, in addition, we can often also include our palliative and supportive oncology colleagues, especially in the settings where people may have some difficult-to-treat symptoms. They may have enough of an advanced disease where we need to start kind of talking about a person’s goals of care and what their own wishes are for their cancer management and for their life. So, these palliative and supportive oncology colleagues are very, very helpful in those situations. 


Are there also people like social workers, nutritionists? 

Dr. Chandra:

Absolutely. Absolutely.  

So, you know, our social workers, our nurse navigators, our nutritionist and dietitian colleagues, our nurses, our nurse practitioners, I mean, our pharmacists, it takes such a village to help take care of our patients. And I hope a patient or a person realizes that having this village at their fingertips and at our disposal only enhances their care. It’s not meant to complicate their care. It’s not meant to add unnecessary appointments. It’s just to really deliver expert care by each of these individuals who really have a focus on a particular aspect of the delivery of care. 

The Pro-Active Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Patient Toolkit Resource Guide

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November 2022 Digital Health Roundup

November is full of promise using science to help in the fight against cancer. Scientists have made genetically engineered bacteria robots to release cancer fighting chemicals using magnetic force. Engineers have developed artificial intelligence to help predict the recurrence of a deadly cancer, melanoma. Pancreatic cancer is another deadly cancer that is difficult to treat. Scientists have developed a radioactive implant to help doctors treat pancreatic cancer.

Scientists Use Magnets to Deliver Cancer-Killing ‘Micro-Robots’ Into the Body

Scientists have conceived of a new way to deliver cancer-killing compounds, called enterotoxins, to tumors using bionic bacteria that are steered by a magnetic field, according to a report by Invers published last week reports InterestingEngineering.com . The bacteria hung down a specific tumor and releases naturally produced anti-cancer chemicals to kill the cancer. The scientists use aquatic bacteria because of its magnetostatic quality, it has tiny iron crystals inside that can be guided by magnetic force.

They made genetically engineered bacteria robots whose nanoparticles make them release the chemicals that fight cancer on cue. It is a slimy feces shaped robot that consists of polyvinyl alcohol, borax, and particles of neodymium magnets to move the slime around. It uses biohybrid bacteria. Some cancers can’t be operated on due to the tumor’s location; this treatment offers hope for those types of tumors. These tiny robots have been tested on mice and shown to have three times more precision in the delivery of the biohybrid bacteria to kill the cancer. Find more information here.

AI Could Help Cancer Patients Avoid a Deadly Recurrence

AI could help doctors identify which skin cancer patients are at high-risk of a melanoma recurrence before their initial cancer is even treated- giving them a head start to recommend more aggressive treatments that can prevent a recurrence reports Freethink.com . Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, and recurrence is often caught in late stages making it harder to treat. In the early stages of skin cancer, it is often just removed and not treated with drugs. The drugs used to treat melanoma are immune checkpoint inhibitors and often can have serious side effects.

If doctors know ahead of time that patients were at risk of recurrence, they could treat the cancer more aggressively with those drugs. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital is training and validating algorithms to predict recurrence of melanoma within five years for patients. They used electronic health records and data from over 1,700 early-stage melanomas to train the AI. They found the two best predictors of recurrence are tumor thickness and the rate of cancer cell division. The AI model was found to have a sensitivity of 76% so the team is trying to improve the algorithm to be more specific. The AI shows great promise for helping doctors fight skin cancers. Find more information here.

A Radioactive Tumor Implant is a Major Breakthrough for Treating Pancreatic Cancer

In what can be called a quantum leap in medical science, the most successful treatment for pancreatic cancer ever recorded in mouse models is here. Biomedical engineers at Duke University have developed an approach that completely eliminates tumors in 80 percent of mice across various model types, as opposed to most trials that solely halt the growth of such tumors reports InterestingEngineering.com .

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. It is currently hard to treat due to its location and the effects on the surrounding tissue. Scientists have developed an implant that has radioactive iodine-131 that is surrounded by a gel like depot. They can put the implant into the tumor to emit radiation that penetrates the tumor without reaching surrounding tissue. In mice models, scientists use the implant in combination with giving a chemotherapy drug- Paclitaxel. These two together have given good results and are moving into other phases of clinical trials. Scientists believe that the constant radiation to the pancreas makes the drug interact with the cancer in a way that has a stronger effect on the tumor. Find more information here.

5 Ways to Get Rid of Skin Woes and Improve Skin Health

These summer months can be a hazard to skin health if a good routine isn’t properly established. Between regular sun exposure and intense heat, your skin can react poorly to the summer climate. Constant heat and humidity can cause your skin to appear oilier than usual if you have oily skin, and rough and patchy if you typically have dry skin. These warmer months are also a prime time to get some color on your skin, but tanning will increase your chances of sunburn, premature aging, wrinkles, clogged pores, and of course, skin cancers.

With all of these potential risks, now is the perfect time to develop a summer-specific skincare routine to protect yourself from all of the harmful effects the sun can have on your skin.

Avoid Touching Your Face

First and foremost, you should avoid touching your face, especially in the hotter summer months. Throughout the day, you touch multiple surfaces, like doorknobs, car keys, and grocery carts, all of which can contain bacteria and allergens. When touching your face or rubbing your eyes, you transfer the bacteria from your hands to your pores. This transfer can cause acne and other undesirable skin flare-ups.

Similarly, everyday accessories like eyeglasses can also spread bacteria to your face, as the frames can collect sweat on your temples, under your eyes, and on the bridge of your nose. Choosing disposable contact lenses instead of eyeglasses can help you avoid these issues altogether. If you do have to wear your frames occasionally, make sure to disinfect them properly after each use to cut down on spreading any bacteria to your face.

Regardless of the season, make sure to wash your face with a clean cloth to prevent dirt, oil, and bacteria from clogging your pores. While washing your face, you should also keep your hands and surroundings sanitary. Consider using a product, like a facial cleansing bar, to balance and nourish your skin during the summer months. The combination of a consistent cleansing schedule and a fresh pair of contacts can allow your skin and eyes to breathe, which can help tremendously on hot and dry summer days.

Keep Your Skin Hydrated

The warmer seasons pose the perfect opportunity to keep your skin moist and healthy. Having hydrated skin can significantly improve elasticity and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, especially when you’re frequently exposed to the sun. Hydrated skin can also help you combat oiliness during the summer, as dehydrated skin produces more oil to make up for lack of moisture.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water each day for both your skin and your overall health. Consider investing in a reusable water bottle to motivate you and hold yourself accountable for your daily drinking goals. It’s common for people to become dehydrated during the hotter months, and dehydration can contribute to both dry and oily skin.

Wear SPF

It’s imperative to incorporate the proper skin protection into your routine during the peak summer months. This month being UV Safety Awareness Month, reminds us to take the necessary precautions to keep our skin healthy and protected against UV rays. To do this, make sure to add SPF into your daily routine, and reapply every two hours while you’re in the sun. This will not only reduce your risk of sunburn but reduce the risk of long-term damages such as cancer.

Consider Changing Your Face Wash

When developing your summer skincare routine, you should look into the benefits of your face wash. For example, in the winter, use a nourishing face wash to avoid cold, cracked skin. In the summer, you should use a face wash to draw out the excess oil your face might produce. Double cleansing is a great way to ensure you clean out your pores fully and leave your skin feeling refreshed. You may consider washing your face 2-3 times per day to ensure your pores are clean and reduce your chances of clogging.

Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly

Exfoliation is the key to brightening and smoothing your skin and can also help remove dead skin cells, especially in the summer when there is a heightened risk of sunburn and peeling. Dead skin cells also prevent the skin from breathing properly and can lead to acne and other skin problems. Exfoliate your face and body for a smooth, healthy, and lightweight complexion; but also make sure you aren’t exfoliating too much which can cause more harm than good to your skin and its barrier.

It’s essential to reevaluate your skincare routine with the change of every season. Oftentimes, your skin will react differently depending on the weather and your interaction with the sun. Prepare and protect your skin this summer with these simple steps and be mindful of your skin health all year round!

June 2022 Notable News

This month innovative technology and research has enabled doctors and scientists to look at reasons for increasing numbers of cancer cases, leading to preventative measures. United States Veterans are at a higher risk for getting a deadly skin cancer, melanoma. Research shows that the causes of liver cancer are changing, it is the third deadliest cancer. And finally, a team of scientists using a new genomic technique have found some causes of upper gastrointestinal cancers.

U.S. Veterans at Higher Risk for Deadly Skin Cancer Melanoma

U.S. veterans are at higher risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, than most Americans, and new research finds they are also more likely to have advanced-stage disease when it is detected reports UPINews.com . When the cancer is found, it has typically spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body through the bloodstream. Of all the skin cancers, melanoma has the highest mortality rate. Older white males are at higher risk for developing skin cancer, which are a higher percentage of veterans. Many veterans service took place outside in high UV environments, and it is less likely that sunscreen was worn. Melanoma is now preventable by wearing protective clothing and using 30 SPF or higher sunscreen. Early screening and diagnosis increase the chances of survival. Find more information here.

Causes of Liver Cancer are Changing, Study Finds

The primary causes of liver cancer are well known, viral (hepatitis B and C), alcohol and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a condition in which fat builds up in the liver, resulting in chronic inflammation and damage reports Knowridge.com . The hepatitis B vaccine and use of antiviral medications have caused a decrease in Hepatitis B liver cancer. Liver cancer is the third leading cause of all cancer deaths. The causes of the rise in liver cancer are now shifting with an increase in alcohol consumption and an increase in obesity. Simple lifestyle changes can lower the risk of getting liver cancer, such as decreasing alcohol intake and making dietary changes to help prevent getting a fatty liver. Find more information here.

New Genomic Technique Identifies Roots of Upper GI Cancers

A team of scientists at Van Andel Institute findings reveal that, in upper GI cancers, the oxidative stress caused by inflammation damages specific parts of the DNA, causing guanine to be replaced with oxidized guanine. These errors prevent DNA from being copied accurately- a key hallmark of cancer reports Technologynetworks.com . Upper GI cancers are preceded by inflammatory conditions such as H. pylori bacteria, this bacterium causes stomach ulcers. Another inflammatory condition is Barrett’s esophagus, this is caused from acid reflux. This team uses circle damage sequencing to determine where mutations occur in DNA sequencing. Circle damage sequencing has also been used to study the mutations that cause melanoma. Find more information here.

Four Factors in Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment Decisions

How can non-melanoma skin cancer treatment be determined? In the “Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You?” program, expert Dr. Vernon Sondak from Moffitt Cancer Center shares factors that help determine non-melanoma skin cancer treatment for the best care.

1. Establish Treatment Goals

Depending on each advanced non-melanoma skin cancer patient, treatment goals may vary. Advanced non-melanoma skin cancers are often curable. With some patients, curing them may not be the primary goal – but making the patient feel better by reducing their symptoms may be the goal of their care. The end result in those cases is improved quality of life for these patients. Work together with your healthcare team to understand your treatment goals.

2. Learn About Factors That Help Determine Treatment Options

Depending on each skin cancer patient, treatment options may vary depending on the factors of patient lifestyle, overall health, other medical conditions, and patient concerns. Lifestyle factors can include things like sun exposure and sun protection after diagnosis and whether the patient is a smoker, since smoking can impact health in various ways.

3. Ask About Available Treatment Options

Advanced non-melanoma has a wide range of treatment options, which may include a combination of radiation, surgery, chemo, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Sometimes radiation or another treatment may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor or tumors. Or surgery may not be used at all. Make sure to ask your doctor about the treatment options and why one of the types is not part of your treatment plan to ensure you have a thorough understanding of your care plan.

4. Consider a Panel of Specialists

Advanced non-melanoma skin cancer is a cancer that is best treated by an experienced team of specialists. The ideal situation is to have a radiologist, surgeon, and oncologists who can coordinate with each other to carry out the best combination of radiation, surgery, chemo, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. By working together, the team of specialists can work out the best treatment timing and combination for the optimal patient outcome.

It’s vital for advanced non-melanoma skin cancer patients to learn about the factors involved in treatment decisions. By expanding their knowledge, patients can help determine the best treatment plan for improved quality of life and optimal health outcomes.

Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Patient First Office Visit Planner

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Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Patient Follow-Up Visit Planner

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Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Care Partner First Office Visit Planner

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Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Care Partner Follow-Up Visit Planner

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Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment Decisions: What’s Right For You? Resource Guide

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Advanced Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You?

When considering an advanced non-melanoma skin cancer treatment approach, what helps determine the best treatment for YOU? In this 30-minute webinar, Dr. Vernon Sondak will discuss key treatment decision factors, emerging research, and tips for collaborating with your healthcare team.

Watch online on Wednesday, March 16th at 1 PM Eastern (10 AM PT, 12 PM CT) for a 30-minute virtual webinar.

Register Now



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All webinars will be recorded and posted on our website following the presentation.

This program is brought to you by the Patient Empowerment Network. It is made possible through support from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Sanofi, and generous donations from people like you.

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