(12/19/13) - Tiny electrical shocks are blasting through some of the
deadliest skin cancers.
Melanoma takes more than 9,000 lives every year. Once it spreads, it is very difficult to treat. But, a new shock-therapy may improve the odds for a lot of people.
With 20 acres of grapes to grow, animals to feed, and grass to cut, Martin Bajuk says he is a busy man, "there's always things to do."
But a recent diagnosis of melanoma threatened to slow down this active 77-year-old, "I noticed, ah, sort of like a wart."
He had three surgeries, but the cancer spread and Martin was running out of options.
"It's a frustrating cancer to treat, and it's also very resistant," says Oncologist, Dr. Adil Daud.
Dr. Daud is studying electroporation for advanced melanoma. He injects a gene-called IL12 into the tumor, then uses deliver electricityto open pores in the tumor, so it can absorb the IL12.
Once that is done, Daud says, the body's immune system sends special cells to destroy the cancer, "and then once the immune system has done that, there's what's known as memory cells, and so those memory cells circulate around and if they see other melanoma, they will get rid of that too."
In a trial, eight of nine patients saw all or most of their tumors shrink. None reported side effects.
One downside, Martin says, is that the treatment is painful, "it's over 1200 volts of electricity. That is just unbearable."
The pain lasts for just a second. Each shock lasts only a few milliseconds. The treatment spans eight days, with three daily doses.
Researchers say this therapy would likely need to be combined with others to see maximum benefits.
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