Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. When found early, before it has invaded deeply into the skin and spread to other parts of the body, it is curable by surgery alone. Although advanced melanoma is more challenging to treat successfully, long-term disease control and a cure remain possible with the recent development of novel immunological and targeted therapies.
NewYork-Presbyterian offers the most innovative treatment for people with all stages of melanoma, including clinical trials evaluating novel immunotherapies, targeted therapies and combination regimens for people with metastatic melanoma. Our melanoma care teams include world leaders in melanoma research and immunotherapy, and our patients benefit from their expertise.
A Team of Melanoma Specialists
Your healthcare team includes dermatologic oncologists, dermatopathologists (doctors with advanced training diagnosing diseases of the skin), dermatologic surgeons, plastic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, social workers, and others with the compassion and skills to provide you with personalized care. Your team members collaborate to discuss your case and to customize a plan of treatment that meets your needs.
Skin Screening to Find Cancers Early
The best time to treat melanoma is when it is caught early. We offer MoleMap photography for people who have many atypical moles or have a high risk of developing melanoma. The very high-resolution photography provides details of the entire skin surface and creates a body map, which like a world map shows every detail of your skin, including your moles and any other growths. For the most challenging moles, we use a digital skin surface microscopy or dermoscopy. It allows us to see the structures under the skin surface and enables us to distinguish malignant skin lesions, such as melanoma, from benign. With the help of sophisticated software, we can assess the lesions objectively to aid in correct diagnosis. Patients receive a copy of their mole map to help them to conduct their monthly melanoma self-checks. MoleMap allows us to rapidly detect changes in lesions and identify those that may require a biopsy.
NewYork-Presbyterian also hosts skin cancer screenings to look for early melanomas, other types of skin cancers, and atypical moles that could potentially become cancerous. If we find a suspicious lesion, we'll connect you with follow-up care to have it evaluated.
Genetic Counseling and Testing
Melanoma sometimes runs in families. If you have a family history of melanoma, you may benefit from meeting with a genetic counselor to discuss your risk of developing this skin cancer and other malignancies. You may choose to have genetic testing, and if you do, your genetic counselor will explain the results to you. Genetic counselors can work with you to create a schedule of skin screenings and discuss other measures you can take to reduce your risk of melanoma.
Cosmetically Sensitive Melanoma Surgery
Our dermatologists and dermatologic surgeons aim to remove as much melanoma tissue as they can, knowing that this gives you the greatest chance of a cure. Today surgeons can remove far less tissue, achieving the same survival benefits while leaving you with a much smaller scar.
Thin melanomas may be removable in a doctor's office. If the melanoma is thicker, our surgeons can make flaps from skin near the tumor, or with grafts of skin taken from another part of your body, to achieve a good cosmetic result.
Immunotherapy for Melanoma
NewYork-Presbyterian's melanoma specialists have participated in pivotal studies evaluating novel immunotherapies for advanced melanoma—treatments that boost the power of the immune system to find and kill cancer cells.
Recently approved immunotherapies for metastatic melanoma include:
- Nivolumab or pembrolizumab. These drugs bind to and block a molecule called PD-1, which shuts down the immune response. By inhibiting PD-1, nivolumab and pembrolizumab enhance the body's ability to detect and destroy cancer cells.
- Ipilimumab. Similar to nivolumab, ipilimumab works by blocking a protein that shuts down the immune response—in this case, a protein called CTLA-4—thereby provoking an immune attack against melanoma cells.
- Talimogene laherparepvec. Also called T-Vec, this is a genetically engineered herpes virus that is injected into tumors and specifically kills cancer cells.
If immunotherapy is part of your treatment plan, you can receive it in our modern and comfortable infusion centers, supported by experienced oncology nurses who monitor you during your treatment and ensure your comfort.
Targeted Melanoma Therapies
Approximately 50 percent of cutaneous melanomas contain mutated versions of a gene called BRAF. If your melanoma has this mutation, you may be able to receive drugs that block a pathway activated by this mutation, such as vemurafenib, cobimetinib, dabrafenib, or trametinib. Since these drugs are taken orally (by mouth), you can take them at home. Your doctor will see you periodically to monitor your care.
Melanoma Clinical Trials
NewYork-Presbyterian has a robust portfolio of cancer clinical trials, including many studies evaluating promising new therapies and treatment combinations for advanced melanoma. Your doctor will let you know if you are eligible to participate in a clinical trial of an innovative therapy.
Supportive Care to Address All Your Needs
Our nutritionists, social workers, palliative care experts, and others will help you and your loved ones address the effects of cancer and its treatment—physical, emotional, and spiritual. We understand the burden that cancer can place on your life and the lives of your loved ones, and we do whatever we can to lessen that burden.