Diagnosed with Cancer? Your two greatest challenges are understanding cancer and understanding possible side effects from chemo and radiation.  Knowledge is Power!

Learn about conventional, complementary, and integrative therapies.

Dealing with treatment side effects? Learn about evidence-based therapies to alleviate your symptoms.

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Melanoma with Metastases to Lungs-

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I agree that Immunotherapy Can Be Transformative. But Are Yervoy, Keytruda, Nivolumab, “Transformative” in anything but the high cost of cancer therapy?

The media too often falls into the trap of hyping cancer therapies. While the immunotherapies Yervoy, Keytruda and Nivolomab may extend the overall survival of a small number of cancer survivors, these expensive chemotherapies

  • have serious potential side effects
  • are limited in Overall Survival and remission for the vast number of survivors
  • are NOT curative

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Skin Cancer Mind Map

Melanoma is a complicated cancer. Saying these therapies are “transforming” oncology is like saying the narrowing of field goal post in the NFL transformed football.

Do you even remember when the NFL first narrowed the width of goal posts? They want to do it again...

Yes, these drugs are another therapy for certain melanomas, lung cancers, and melanoma that have metastasized to the lungs.  A small number of cancer patients have the exact molecular cancer make-up to benefit from Yervoy, Keytruda or Nivolomab.  Unfortunately, immunotherapies only allow remissions for a limited time. These “transformative” chemotherapy regimens are not curative.

My experience as a cancer patient and cancer coach is that the key to living with metastatic melanoma is integrative therapies to combine the best of both conventional and non-conventional therapies.

Sorry if I am sounding a bit negative. My cousin, Peter Conard, 52, passed away last week. Peter was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer two years ago. Peter was a 52 year old non-smoker and one of the healthiest guys I know. Peter’s cancer went into remission when he went on Yervoy. Peter was determined to beat his cancer… Peter’s cancer experience was not transformative.

To learn more about both conventional and non-conventional cancer therapies, scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Thank you,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director of PeopleBeatingCancer

Advanced Melanoma: What to Expect

“Melanoma can spread to parts of your body far away from where the cancer started. This is called advanced, metastatic, or stage IV melanoma. It can move to your lungs, liver, brain, bones, digestive system, and lymph nodes. Most people find their skin cancer early, before it has spread. But others find out they have the disease when it’s in an advanced stage. Some people find out it has spread after they’ve had a melanoma removed, sometimes years later.

Melanoma spreads when the tumor’s cells travel through your body’s tissues, blood, or lymph nodes. They can settle in your organs and keep growing there. They can do this because they’re sneaky. Every day, your body makes cancerous cells…

Treatments for Advanced Melanoma

In most cases, treatment can’t cure advanced melanoma. But some can help you live longer and feel better. The goal of any therapy you get will be to shrink or remove your tumor, keep the cancer from spreading further, and ease your symptoms…

Surgery. This is the main way to remove melanoma from the skin and lymph nodes. You might also have an operation on organs where the cancer has spread. There’s no guarantee your surgeon will get all of it. Some melanoma is too small to see, even with high-tech scans.

Radiation. Your doctor might recommend radiation to kill any cancer cells that have been left behind after surgery or if melanoma spreads to your brain or bones. It can also relieve pain from the disease or treat melanoma that comes back over and over.

Immunotherapy or biologic therapy. These drugs help your immune system find and attack cancer cells.  Depending on the ones you take, you might have to go in for treatment every 2, 3, or 4 weeks.

Your doctor might want you to take more than one drug.  Some studies show that people who do have fewer side effects.

The flip side of immunotherapy is that sometimes these drugs cause your immune system to attack healthy organs. Then you’d need to stop melanoma treatment and take drugs to stop the attack.

Targeted therapy. These drugs turn off the genes in melanoma cells that make them grow out of control. Targeted therapy can do a good job at first, but it tends to stop working in time. Then you’d need to try another treatment

Chemotherapy. Chemo drugs go through your whole body and attack more rapidly dividing cells, like cancer cells. You get this treatment in cycles that last a few weeks. After a cycle, you have time off to let your body recover.

Chemo can shrink the cancer, but chances are it will start growing again after a few months and you’ll need more treatment. Immunotherapy and targeted therapy usually work better.

Some chemo drugs can damage your nerves and cause pain, burning, tingling, or weakness or make you more sensitive to heat or cold…”

How the Promise of Immunotherapy Is Transforming Oncology

“It took some 700 patients and extended the trial to 2010. In the end, fewer than 10% met standard criteria for tumor shrinkage. But 23% survived at least three years, making the drug the first to ever show a survival benefit in patients with advanced melanoma. The drug, now owned by Bristol-Myers and known as Yervoy, was approved in 2011.

The challenge was to widen the benefit to more patients and more cancers.

The disease attracting intense interest is lung cancer, which causes more than 200,000 deaths a year in the U.S.”



Leave a Comment:

Julie says 9 years ago

I have melanoma which started on my arm and is now in my liver and small spot on my lung. I have been on Taflinar for about 6 months now. It did shrink the tumors during this time but nothing is shrinking now. I am “stable”. The Dr. is starting me on the Keytruda tomorrow. I have been reading a lot about it — some good and some questionable. Do you have any thoughts about Keytruda or somewhere I can read about survivors using Keytruda?
I was also wondering what kind of cancer did you beat and how did you do it? I am happy for you!!

    David Emerson says 9 years ago

    Hi Julie-
    I am sorry to read about your melanoma diagnosis though you are doing well to be stable. This may sound boring but stable is much better than progressing…

    Keytruda and Nivlumab, as you know are very new therapies. Meaning there is little actual patient experience. My guess is that your onc recommended this therapy after undergoing genetic or molecular testing for you. In other words, he/she would not put you on really expensive therapy unless you stood an excellent change of responding.

    Having said this it is difficult for me or anyone, to say how long your remission or response, will last.

    Please take this next sentence in the spirit in which it is intended. Can you email updates as to your progress, possible side effects, how you are feeling, etc over the coming months or years?

    This is a lot to ask but you will be able to help future melanoma patients who also are asking questions about Keytruda.


    thank you,

    David Emerson

    Gerald hecker says 8 years ago

    I started keytruda in may 2015. It is shrinking the tumors quite fast. There are other unknown tumors growing but slowly. Keytruda doesn’t stop working. Playing havic with my thyroid and sugar

      David Emerson says 8 years ago

      Hi Gerald-

      Thanks very much for this info. Can you tell me the cancer and stage at diagnosis? Do you mind talking about your health insurance? As in if and how they pay for Keytruda? I’m hoping to get enough info to write another blog post on the subject. Can you talk about your side effects aka “Playing havic with my thyroid and sugar>”

      Again, I will anonymize all info, I’m just trying to talk about this therapy.


      David Emerson
      Survivor, Director

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