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Minding Melanoma: Research and therapies

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Posted at 6:28 AM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 09:33:24-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Researchers at the University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute are spending countless hours researching new medicines to battle melanoma. They’re also working with experts from across the country to brainstorm about new and innovative therapies.

According to the American Cancer Society, there’s new and innovative research on the genetic front to figure out more about how cancer operates in the body and it's helping doctors and patients move forward with treatments and Georg Wondrak is part of that process.

Wondrak is a PhD. and associate professor and researcher at the University of Arizona Cancer Institute. He spends his days searching for ways to destroy melanoma skin cancers in the body.

Ultimately the things I’m doing are experimental. I'm the guy who tries to come up with novel weapons on a molecular basis,” Wondrak said.

Finding new ways to treat and beat cancer is an issue that Martha Bishop has been dealing with since her first melanoma diagnosis in 2009.

She found in a mole on her back and doctors discovered that it was melanoma it was treated and removed.

Then in 2011, Martha had a pet scan and found out the cancer was back and had spread to her lungs it was Stage 4.

"I started a clinical trial for Keytruda and that started working within 4 months and my tumors shrunk little by little,” Bishop said.

Wondrak looks at various ways to develop new drugs and therapies. He closely examines tissues and cells, especially since melanoma can spread through the lymph nodes or simply jump to multiple areas and skip the lymph nodes all together.

“The way I approach drug discovery the development of novel therapeutics is I look for Achilles heels that the cancer presents. I look for something that makes the cancer the tumor very vulnerable,” Wondrak said.

Bishop says immunotherapy saved her life and she’s more than happy to participate in clinical trials in the future.

“My story is a story of hope. When I was diagnosed my kids were 3 and 5 and my goal literally was to get them through kindergarten. They are 16 going to be 15 and 17 this summer,” Bishop said.