Melanoma clinical trial at Baptist Health shows promise

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- We live in the Sunshine State, but if you are not careful all that sun can have consequences. Melanoma is a serious risk of prolonged sun exposure, but a new clinical trial at Baptist Health is showing promising results.

37-year-old Scott Nelson's story begins on a sunny day at the beach. His wife spotted a strange mole on his left shoulder.

"Like if somebody had taken an ink pen refill and cut it and sat it on top of my skin," describes Nelson.

The mole was melanoma and removed. He thought doctors got it all, but then he noticed a lump under his arm.

"It was an infected lymph node, we found out after a biopsy and then it started getting real," says Nelson.

Metastatic melanoma was the diagnosis and that is when Nelson went to see Dr. Troy Guthrie and was enrolled in a double-blind clinical trial with two drugs that basically reveal melanoma to the immune system so antibodies can kill it.

"It is a potential drug called ipilimumab that works on the immune system one way, the other is an immune drug called nivolumab which works in a different way, so he could be getting either drug or the combination of both," explained Dr. Guthrie the medical director of Research and Education at the Baptist Cancer Institute.

Nelson says the first four weeks he felt like he had a severe flu, but then things took a dramatic turn.

"I started feeling better my fever broke, I got energy back I started playing my sports again, I was coaching my son's baseball team and from there it has just been God's path," he says.

Even a separate lump underneath Nelson's arm disappeared and currently there are no visible signs of cancer in his body.
Dr. Guthrie says new drugs for melanoma patients are a long time coming and he encourages patients to at least give some thought to being a part of clinical trials.

"Not only do they get state of the art treatment to help themselves, but they are helping others with us to develop new drugs," told Dr. Guthrie.

The clinical trial Nelson is a part of is currently closed, but Dr. Guthrie says there are more clinical trials coming up in the future for melanoma patients.


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