Dr. Weber and his team have been working together for many years to provide information to patients and the medical community regarding therapeutic options for patients with melanoma. The team consists of physicians representing all of the specialties concerned with melanoma and enjoys an international reputation for excellence in the care of patients with melanoma. Beginning in 2011, there have been major advances in the treatment of metastatic melanoma, with many novel, first-in-kind therapies being approved by the FDA. The Northern California Melanoma Center played a key role in the development of 3 of these new drugs and members of the Consulting Panel were recognized for their contributions by being included as co-authors on the key publications of clinical trials that led to the approvals. The first of these, Yervoy (ipilimumab, anti-CTLA-4 monoclonal antibody), was approved in 2011. It is an immunotherapy that enhances the patient’s immune response to his/her own tumor. The second of these, Zelboraf (vemurafenib) is a form of targeted therapy that stops proliferation of melanoma cells caused by a mutated gene. The third, Imlygic (T-VEC, talimogene laherparepvec, OncoVEX) is another form of immunotherapy. It is a genetically engineered herpes virus that is injected into the melanoma tumor and causes the cells to break down (lyse). This may cause the injected tumor to shrink. At the same time the genetically engineered herpes virus causes release of a substance at the injection site that may boost the patient’s immune response to his/her tumor and cause tumors at other sites that have not been injected to shrink.
More than 5,000 patients have come to the Melanoma Center for consultation regarding melanoma. At the time of the first consultation, the patient’s records are reviewed in detail and he/she undergoes a history and physical examination. There is a review of operative, pathology and laboratory test reports, radiological procedures and all past therapies. If appropriate, the patient’s slides, X-rays, and scans are also reviewed. In selected cases, the patient’s care is discussed by the Consulting Panel.
The patient, family members, and/or friends meet with Dr. Weber, and the recommendations for any diagnostic tests needed and therapeutic options are discussed. The goal is to provide patients and their loved ones with information to allow them to make informed decisions regarding therapeutic options.
After the initial consultation, patients with melanoma are encouraged to have regular follow-up with us and/or with their regular oncologist. Should a problem arise, the patient’s case will be discussed again by the Consulting Panel.
The Northern California Melanoma Center is currently engaged in a major research effort aimed at developing more effective therapies for malignant melanoma. Many of these studies include using investigational immunotherapy.