Guido4, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The value of immunotherapy in treating melanoma cannot be underestimated, according to  respected Lismore general surgeon Austin Curtin who spoke about immunotherapy and other ways of managing melanoma, including surgery, in the latest installment of the GPs Ask video series developed by St Vincent’s Private Hospital Lismore.

Dr Curtin said immunotherapy was the ‘latest addition to our armamentarium’ and had been delivering impressive results.

‘Fifty percent of people with metastatic melanoma respond to these drugs. Thirty percent of people, in fact, have lost all evidence of disease and are surviving for more than five years.

‘At the moment it is being used for advanced disease only; that is, stage three node positive, or stage four metastatic disease. It’s a fascinating new form of therapy being developed after years of investigation into a cure for HIV.

‘It targets the T cell, which contains immune blockers; these are called checkpoint blockers or checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors actually decrease the effectiveness of the immune system and they directly affect the T cell.

‘These new drugs are checkpoint blockers that inhibit the checkpoints and allow the T cell to perform at its maximum ability.’

‘The results are astounding. Checkpoint inhibitors are the biggest advance we have had in the management of melanoma over my career,’ he said.


Previous videos in the GPs Ask series have featured Dr Sally Butchers speaking about breast, bowel and skin cancer screening; Dr Daniel Bills talking about colorectal cancer screening; Dr Dominic Simring on managing diabetic foot disease; Dr Gratian Punch on liver surgery and the CUSA device; and Dr Tim Scholz on pain management.

The series has been specifically designed to answer common questions from GPs on the Northern Rivers, and features expert advice from local specialists.

Medical professionals can sign up to receive St Vincent’s Dear Doctor newsletters, which feature new GPs Ask videos and important updates and information from the hospital.

All the videos can be viewed on St Vincent’s website.

To sign up for the Dear Doctor newsletter, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.