Melanoma rages, ASCO raves, families cry, patients wait and hope hope hope.

Yesterday my family, which runs a local melanoma foundation that is associated with WISTAR Institute (a truly great foundational science group), had our annual 5K run/walk we call Run4Cover. Our 9th year. If you do not know about WISTAR — and the amazing Dr. Meenhard Herlyn in the center of the poster — then you should. And if you are not keeping your kids (or yourself) off the tanning bed and have not matured past the Sun Worship stage, then shame on you. Seriously. This is such a common sense preventable disease, but once it gets going, you are not left with a lot of options. Until now. As I volunteered at the runners registration, I saw so many family running teams with their loved one’s face on their t-shirts; I spoke to many individuals touched by this scourge of a disease — dad’s, mom’s, sister and brothers. But it was only a few weeks after ASCO, the major annual oncology conference. The news is exciting, more promising than ever — and not one person I spoke to heard anything about it — even those in remission who hear that ticking clock in their lymph nodes. Check out this ASCO wrap-up quote and follow the link below to the full story: The long-term results (abstract LBA9003) show that the combination of ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab produced an unprecedented median survival of 40 months for patients with advanced melanoma, which is nearly double the overall survival previously reported with either agent alone. “Just a few years ago, the median survival for patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma was as little as a year or less…. So it’s truly remarkable that we’re seeing a median survival of over 3 years in this trial,” commented lead author Mario Sznol, MD, professor of medical oncology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “Even in the latest era of targeted and immunotherapy agents, the median survival is, on average, only about 16 to 18 months with any new treatment alone.”** Now I know oncology marketing is doctor-focused. But it is the patients who should be partnering, not just following, their doctor. It is easy to sit back and read all about “breakthroughs” like for Merck’s new treatment (coming soon), but the companies should be making armies of informed, empowered patients. If Merck has a “breakthrough” then shout to the hills! If BMS combo-therapies can extend life for years, then as a patient, bang on the oncologists door and demand to know everything about it. Last, I leave you with two photos. One, from the Run at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. For all that pain, look at how people celebrate and fight back with positive energy. Second, my sister, the president of the whom in over 10 years has organized the first ever melanoma global researchers conference. Who has worked with the FDA. Who has given tirelessly and never asked for anything but the satisfaction of seeing people heal, find solace, or find answers through WISTAR’s help. Wistar poster Run4Cover 2014     Yervoy has a patient program called “Your Voyage.” Kudos to them. Because that is exactly what it is — a rocky, hard, scary voyage. But now we have hope, hope, hope. Thanks, Kate. * **Thanks to MedScape for the ASCO news clip.