Women In Melanoma: AIM’s Latest Success Story
AIM at Melanoma is always looking for innovative and effective ways to support patients and advance melanoma care. Our latest initiative is an exciting example of what a well-respected advocacy organization and melanoma professionals can accomplish together to help patients.
In the course of their work with AIM over the last few years, Val Guild and her daughter, Sam Guild, noticed a trend when they were working with melanoma oncologists: As the survival rate for melanoma increased, many of these physicians expressed the need to discuss topics with their patients and fellow physicians that they’d not had to discuss before. In other words, ten years ago, when the survival rate for Stage IV melanoma hovered in the single digits, the most critical topics both with patients and between physicians were, simply, the desperate search for a treatment that might work and the reality that there were no effective treatments. Now, with the advent of immunotherapies and targeted therapies, more than 50% of Stage IV patients are alive after two years, and the focus for many patients and physicians has shifted from—to put it bluntly—dying with melanoma to living with melanoma. And now that immunotherapies and targeted therapies are available in both Stage II and III, conversation with and treatment of those patients has changed, too.
The “new” topics that oncologists now must address include managing the sometimes serious side effects of immunotherapies and targeted therapies in Stage II, III, and IV patients; coordinating care between academic and community physicians on their shared patients; and the heretofore unnecessary post-treatment concerns for Stage IV patients such as treatment effects on fertility and the prolonged anxiety of living with a disease that would likely have killed them ten years ago. Although these topics are obviously essential subjects for the optimization of patient care, they are not those usually covered at traditional oncology meetings.
Val and Sam also noticed that many of those especially interested in these topics were “young” female physicians—a cohort of female professionals who have worked in the field long enough to know that those treatments which are now so promising were almost nonexistent ten years ago, and who are eager to see that pendulum continue to swing even further toward survival.
Women In Melanoma Takes Off
In August 2017 AIM invited 25 young female oncologists to the inaugural Young Women in Melanoma conference to discuss these non-traditional but incredibly important topics. In August 2018 AIM hosted the second Women in Melanoma (we call it WIM for short) conference. The meetings have been an unqualified success, demonstrated by how the attendees have gone back to their workplaces and shared the concepts, lessons, and best practices learned at the conference.
Additionally, several planned collaborative research projects have emerged from the meetings. For example, based on collaborations she established at WIM, Yana Najjar, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UPMC-Hillman Cancer Center has collected data on the largest data set of uveal melanoma patients treated with immunotherapy, with these findings soon to be published, with many of the WIM attendees as co-authors.
We are excited about the promising results for melanoma patients that will come out of future WIM conferences, and we’ll keep you posted about this innovative and promising group’s work.