Summer days are rapidly winding down. I have savoured the freedom of the outdoors, the luxury of sitting on a patio with friends, and the ability to take in the sights and sounds of the city once again. However, always in the back of my mind is the ongoing struggle many in our cancer community are facing with the added layer of COVID-19, on top of a cancer diagnosis.
Over the last few months, we at MNC have heard from a number of patients about the increased stress and isolation they are feeling. We have heard about delays in diagnosis and even the challenges with appointments, as many have gone on-line. The convenience of on-line access is sometimes conflicting with the lack of human contact and touch. It also potentially leads to things being overlooked or under-reported. Thankfully, cancer patients in most centers were given priority for access to vaccinations for COVID-19. We strongly encourage every patient and their family members to get vaccinated (unless otherwise recommended by your medical team), and to continue to practice regular hand washing and wear masks where possible. It is worth reminding your family and friends that immune compromised people, including the elderly and cancer patients in treatment, require extra precautions and safety practices.
While talking safety, I also want to remind everyone about sun safety. As most of you know, UV from the sun is a leading cause for most cutaneous melanoma and other forms of skin cancer like basal cell, and squamous cell carcinoma. New research from the Van Andel Institute reinforces what we have long believed the cause of most cutaneous melanoma is: “damage from sunlight creates a chemical conversion in DNA which leads to the potential development of melanoma or other forms of skin cancer.” Dr. Gerd Pfeifer, a professor at VAI and author of the study said the research shows that sunlight is the trigger for the DNA mutation.
even short exposure to UVB light — just 15 minutes — created mutations in the DNA, again reinforcing the need for and importance of safe sun practices. – Dr. Gerd Pfeifer
In most cases, the source of the mutation isn’t clear, and finding this is a major step forward in terms of prevention initiatives. In the study, he showed that even short exposure to UVB light — just 15 minutes — created mutations in the DNA, again reinforcing the need for and importance of safe sun practices. The mutations may not cause disease right away, but as we know, sun exposure over time really adds up and many of us develop skin cancer later in life. In short, while the days of summer are drawing to a close, the UV index is often still high. If the UV index is above 3, check the recommendations for your skin type and cover up. Enjoy the outdoors as much as possible while being sun safe!
Update on Treatments 2021:
Melanoma – I am pleased to say that we had another successful drug submission and approval over the summer. Thank you again to all who participated in our survey to help us to continue to add options to our war-chest for treatment. As of July 26th, Braftovi (encorafenib) in combination with Mektovi (binimetinib), was given a positive recommendation for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation, as detected by a validated test. This will now proceed to price negotiations with the provinces, and we are very hopeful that this new combination targeted therapy will soon be covered by the provinces as another effective option for patients with the BRAF mutation.
Basal Cell Carcinoma – Visit our website and participate in a new patient drug submission survey for Libtayo (cemiplimab), for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic basal cell carcinoma (BCC) previously treated with a hedgehog pathway inhibitor (HHI). This drug therapy has been used effectively for patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and has now been shown to be effective for certain patients with advanced or BCC, where an HHI has not been effective. It is so important to have options when there have nott been further treatment options previously available. We hope that you will help by participating in this survey – whether or not you have basal cell carcinoma or have been treated with this therapy.
ANNETTE CYR Three-time melanoma survivor, Chair & Founder, Melanoma Network of Canada