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Melanoma & Skin Cancers

Source: Cancer Resource Room

The three types of skin cancers are:

Basal Cell & Squamous Cell Carcinomas
These cancers are the most common and occur in sun-exposed areas of the skin in older adults. Basal and squamous cell cancers start in the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. To read more on Basal Cell & Squamous Cell Carcinomas >>>

Melanoma is a cancer of the cells that give color to skin, hair and eyes. Melanoma also starts in the epidermis, but quickly grows in the deeper cells and spreads to other parts of the body. It is important for melanoma to be treated as early as possible. To read more on Melanoma >>>

Merkel Cell Carcinoma
Merkel cell carcinoma, also called neuroendocrine cancer of the skin, is a rare type of disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. To read more on Merkle Cell Carcinoma >>>

What's New in Melanoma and Skin Cancers?

Hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion for melanoma is a treatment used for an aggressive form that occurs on extremities known as in transit metastases.

Hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion is a treatment used for an aggressive form of melanoma that occurs on extremities known as in transit metastases. This form of advanced disease usually presents as multiple nodules that in an area surrounding the site from where the primary melanoma was excised. Often times the lesions are black in color, but occasionally they are not. Their natural history without treatment is to increase in number and size, and the lesions often become ulcerated and foul smelling wounds. The best form of therapy is surgical excision of individual lesions when they are small; however, this approach is feasible when the total number of lesions and their scope is limited (1 - 5 lesions). Once there are more lesions than this, surgery is rarely feasible and rarely indicated because it is highly likely that additional microscopic lesions are present throughout the extremity. In this instance, it is well accepted that the most effective form of therapy is hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion, a treatment approach in which 80% of treated patients experience regression of their tumor nodules, with complete regression (complete disappearance) of the tumor nodules in half of these patients.

Hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion is an operation usually performed under general anesthesia in which the main artery and vein of the affected extremity are connected to a bypass circuit, to completely isolate the blood flow to and from the limb. The bypass circuit uses a heart-lung bypass oxygenator and cardiac bypass pump to control oxygenation, temperature, and flow of the blood in the limb. This perfusion circuitry is operated by a certified cardiopulmonary perfusionist with experience in chemotherapeutic limb perfusion.

By having the affected limb connected to a perfusion circuit and with its blood completely isolated from that of the remainder of the body, it is possible to warm the blood and the extremity to a temperature of 40.5 degrees Centigrade (105 degrees Fahrenheit) without warming the entire body. A very high dose of chemotherapy agent (Melphalan) is administered into the perfusion circuit to expose the extremity to high doses of Melphalan without exposing the entire body to the drug. The combination of heat and high dose Melphalan circulated in the extremity for one hour induces tumor regression in 80% of patients. The operation usually lasts a total of 3 to 4 hours and most patients are discharged on the second day following surgery. Subsequent regression of tumor takes place over 2 - 10 weeks. The procedure of hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion does have some risks and is not indicated in some patients, including those that have significant tumor burden in sights other than the affected extremity. The procedure cannot be used to treat in transit metastases that occur on the thorax or head/neck.

If you feel that you may be a candidate for hyperthermic isolated limb perfusion, please have your physician contact Kenneth K. Tanabe, MD
Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Deputy Clinical Director, MGH Cancer Center
Surgical Director, MGH Pigmented Lesion Clinic and Melanoma Center

To Search Pub Med on melanoma and skins cancers, please see below.
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