• Patient treated with keytruda for melanoma

Immunotherapy: Ingalls Offers “Presidential” Cancer Treatment

While melanoma accounts for less than two percent of all skin cancer cases, it’s responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, melanoma claims one life every hour in the United States.

But Keytruda, a powerful new immunotherapy drug available at Ingalls Cancer Care, is showing excellent results in patients with advanced melanoma. In fact, it’s the very same drug that President Jimmy Carter recently credited for destroying his melanoma-related brain tumors and putting him into remission.

“The immune system is the body’s natural defense against disease,” explains Mark Kozloff, M.D., Medical Director of Ingalls Cancer Care. “It sends specific types of cells called ‘T cells’ throughout the body to detect and fight infections and diseases – including cancers like advanced melanoma.” However, certain cancer cells are good at hiding from the body’s immune fighters, allowing the cancer to grow and spread.

“Keytruda helps the immune system do what it was meant to do: find and fight cancer cells,” Dr. Kozloff adds. Seventy-eight-year-old Zoe Ewan of East Hazel Crest recently completed her tenth Keytruda treatment at the Ingalls Infusion Center in Flossmoor and is experiencing excellent results. Ewan was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma of the right lung, liver and bones earlier this year, and recent diagnostic scans show her cancer is gone. This is Ewan’s second go-round with melanoma; she was treated for it in 2001. It recurred in 2015; that’s when Dr. Kozloff recommended the new targeted immunotherapy drug.

“Cancer cells have a way of inhibiting the immune system,” Dr. Kozloff adds. “But immunotherapy drugs like Keytruda are changing the landscape by ‘turning on’ the immune system and unleashing its potential against the invading cells. Here at Ingalls, we’ve been investigating and using these types of therapies for two years. There’s considerable potential to use immunotherapy to fight other types of cancer too, including lung, kidney and bladder.” Studies have shown than Keytruda can shrink tumors by as much as 90 percent in about a third of patients. And Ewan, who has had an outstanding response to the treatment with very few side effects, couldn’t be happier.

“I haven’t had to change my lifestyle at all,” she said.

In fact, the optimistic great-grandmother continues to work two part-time jobs, including one as a trustee for the Village of East Hazel Crest.

Ewan credits God, Dr. Kozloff and Keytruda with her miraculous turnaround. And when she discovered she’s on the same treatment regimen as the former president, she was thrilled – and grateful.

“I’m right up there with someone who’s important,” she adds with a smile. “They wouldn’t give President Carter anything but the best, and that’s what I’m getting too. I put my life in God’s and Dr. Kozloff’s hands, and it’s paying off. I guess God thinks I’m worth keeping around for a while.”

For more information about immunotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment at Ingalls, call 708.915.HOPE (4673).

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