by Sobia Ozair, M.D., medical oncologist
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and will affect one in five Americans during their lifetime. It can occur anywhere on the body but usually forms in skin that’s been exposed to sunlight. Of the different types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most aggressive and is likely to spread to other parts of the body without early detection, diagnosis and treatment.
Innovative Skin Cancer Treatments at the Cancer Center
There are several new medical treatments that the FDA has recently approved for skin cancer, but one of the most interesting involves injecting a genetically altered live herpes virus into the skin. Viral therapy has long been studied as a means to directly kill cancer cells, and with more research, we actually have a drug that has been approved to do just that in melanoma.
This drug, T-VEC, has been approved for patients with locally recurrent melanoma or in-transit melanoma, which have classically been very challenging to treat because of the volume of disease that involves the skin. There are often too many lesions to surgically remove, so in the past, medical therapy has not been very effective. Thankfully, that is changing.
T-VEC is a reduced form of the herpes virus that directly infects the melanoma tumor it’s injected into. It causes the melanoma cells to break apart and generates a strong inflammatory response that triggers other normal immune cells to wake up and to start fighting the cancer cells as well. So the drug can not only be effective on the cancerous area, but it also stimulates the immune response to attack other cancerous cells in the body.
The T-VEC virus has been designed to selectively grow and multiply in cancer cells but not in healthy cells. Before the FDA approved it in 2015, there was rigorous testing through clinical trials on cancer patients. Common side effects include fatigue, chills, fever, and flu-like symptoms, but overall, serious side effects from the treatment were extremely rare and the drug is considered safe in immunocompetent patients.
Detecting Skin Cancer Early
As dangerous as skin cancer can be, it is also very treatable if it is caught early, so examining your skin and seeing your doctor about any changes is incredibly important. We recommend checking your skin monthly for any new or changed moles or marks. This may seem simple, but it can save your life! Learn more about prevention and early detection here.
Upcoming Skin Cancer Awareness Fundraiser
On June 8, Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center is teaming up with FestiGals for the second annual Baton Rouge Rock for Spots! It’s a one-night benefit concert at the Varsity Theatre supporting patients with melanoma and other forms of skin and soft tissue cancer. We hope you’ll join us!
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
New T-VEC drug treatment is available at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center in Baton Rouge. Learn more by visiting marybird.org/skin.
- Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and will affect one in five Americans during their lifetime.
- The FDA has recently approved T-VEC, a new medical treatment for skin cancer that involves a genetically altered live herpes virus designed to selectively grow and multiply in cancer cells but not in healthy cells.
- Skin cancer can be dangerous but also very treatable if caught early, so it is incredibly important to examine your skin and see your doctor about any changes.
Dr. Sobia Ozair is a medical oncologist at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center in Baton Rouge. She was trained at the University of South Alabama and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.
More and more, certain barriers to care are coming to light in local communities—not just throughout Louisiana, but also around the nation. One of those barriers is taking time away from work and family to access cancer screenings, but unfortunately, this can result in cancers going undetected.
Watch Kelly’s story to see how companies like GMFS Mortgage are partnering with Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center to bring cancer screenings onsite to their employees through the Prevention on the Go workplace program.
The words above are just a few of the ways that Hillary Lanaux’s family describe her meaningful life.
Leaving a Legacy
This is why New Orleans residents Mr. and Mrs. Lanaux made a generous, transformational donation – one of the largest ever received across the state – to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s Prevention on the Go Program, which focuses on cancer prevention, education and early detection in Covington, Houma and surrounding parishes.
“This gift from my parents is really an offering to the community in honor of Dr. Saux and everyone who cared for Hillary, and for those now caring for my father,” said Hilda Lanaux.
“Hillary was a leader and was extremely empathetic to the plights of others. I know she would be so proud of how her grandparents’ gift will touch so many people.”
Why Early Detection is Important
Every year, 25,000 people in Louisiana and more than 3,500 people in the Covington and Houma areas alone are diagnosed with cancer each year. Chances of survival are much better when cancer is detected in its earliest stages, so raising awareness and increasing detection has become a life or death matter in Louisiana – ranked number four in the nation for highest cancer mortality rate. In fact, across the country, 80 percent of prostate cancer patients benefit from early detection while 99 percent of breast cancers are found early enough to treat and increase survivorship rates.
Services Close to Home in the Northshore and Bayou Regions
The Lanauxs’ gift is truly transformational in that it will fund prevention, education and early detection programs through the Northshore and Bayou regions where Mary Bird Perkins partners with St. Tammany Parish Hospital and Terrebonne General Medical Center. In these areas, the Cancer Center’s mobile medical unit travels throughout the Covington, Houma and beyond screening people for breast, colorectal, skin, oral and prostate cancers.
Currently, the Cancer Center’s mobile units provide nearly 50 screenings throughout the state each day. The Lanauxs’ gift will provide funding to Prevention on the Go for four years. Take a look at how this donation will impact the community.
Hillary Continues to Help Others
“Hillary was a people person and was president of her class in both her junior and senior years in high school. She was a mover and a shaker,” said Ethel Lanaux, Hillary’s grandmother. “While we don’t know how she would have impacted peoples’ lives in the future, she most certainly made the most of the short time she was with us. Our hope is that this gift in her name will help do the good that we know she would have done if she were still with us today.”
Through this gift, Hilary’s brave leadership and empathetic, helpful spirit will certainly live on.
For more information on how you can make a gift in memory or honor of someone special, visit our website.
Louisiana is known for its fun, legendary festivals and events with unique spins on food, music and culture. However, ten years ago, something different premiered in Baton Rouge, offering an innovative approach to presenting cancer and other health topics with the same kind of flair. The annual event, Fest for Life, commenced in 2008, setting a new tone for delivering free cancer screenings, changing the way many people view these tests.
Hundreds are expected for this year’s tenth anniversary of Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center’s Fest for Life, Saturday, April 22 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Bon Carre’ Business Center, 7359 Florida Blvd. And living up to its reputation for a good time, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome will kick off the event with a with a second line parade at 9:45 a.m. in honor of Fest for Life’s 10th anniversary.
Entertainment, food and games are all are a part of the scene and have become synonymous with the one-day health event, making potentially intimidating cancer screenings, fun.
Longtime Fest for Life participant Sharon Lindsey, a budding screenwriter, says that she began attending Fest for Life in 2013 to help ensure a healthier future. After losing her father to prostate cancer and having had numerous other relatives fight the disease, she takes no chances when it comes to her health.
“Over the years, I’ve brought my sister and nephews with me to Fest for Life because there’s something for everyone,” said Lindsey. “We’ve danced and enjoyed the food, but most of all we attended because of the screenings. It was a relief to know that we are in the clear, and now we are more educated on what we can do to help prevent cancer.”
Each year, Fest for Life offers five types of cancer and other life-saving health screenings and education, along musical entertainment, food, games for the kids and much more—all for free. Since Fest for Life began, more than 4,800 cancer screenings have been performed and 15 cancers have been detected. The event is part of the Cancer Center’s Prevention on the Go program.
Click here for more information on Fest for Life, or call (225) 215-1234.
Celebrating of 10 years of saving lives through cancer early detection
(Baton Rouge, La.) A decade ago, Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center launched a community health initiative, Fest for Life, which today has grown into a large-scale event that has screened more than 4,800 people for cancer and other diseases. Hundreds are expected for this year’s tenth anniversary of Fest for Life, Saturday, April 22 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Bon Carre’ Business Center, 7359 Florida Blvd., where free cancer screenings and tests for other diseases, health education and resources, food, entertainment and more will be offered for the entire family.
Fest for Life began in 2008 as a way to provide racial and ethnic minorities and others disproportionately impacted by cancer with free, easy access to potentially lifesaving services. Over the last few years, Fest for Life’s audience has expanded to offer even more people, regardless of minority or insurance status, convenient access to early detection services.
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who is serving as the 2017 honorary chair of Fest for Life and has been involved with the event since its early years, commends the Cancer Center for its efforts, especially with Louisiana residents experiencing some of the highest cancer mortality rates in the nation.
“There is a growing need for these kinds of early detection and education services, and in many cases people would not receive them if it weren’t for Fest for Life. Because of this event, cancers are being caught early; lives are being saved,” said Broome. “I’m so proud to be a part of this effort. Its impact is really immeasurable because not only are many people in the Greater Baton Rouge accessing screenings, early detection programs throughout the country are emulating this model to deliver their services. ”
Johnnay Benjamin, director of early detection and education for the Cancer Center, says 15 people have been diagnosed with cancer through Fest for Life, and other diseases have been detected as well.
“Fest for Life’s focus is certainly on cancer early detection, but its scope goes beyond this one disease and addresses the many health problems impacting our city’s residents,” said Benjamin. “In addition to cancer, mortality rates continue to soar due to conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, and we provide screenings for all of these diseases.”
In addition to the health aspects of the event, Benjamin says that there has always been a focus on making Fest for Life an outing that the whole family can enjoy. Food, entertainment and children’s activities are all included at no cost, thanks to Karnival Krewe de Louisiane, the event’s presenting sponsor, along with other generous donors. As a special attraction in celebration of the 10th anniversary, Broome will kick off a second line parade at 9:45 a.m. at the event.
All screenings are available to those who have not been screened for cancer in the past 12 months. Appointments are required for breast cancer screenings only. To make an appointment, please call (225) 215-1234 or (888) 616-4687. For additional information about this event and other upcoming screenings, please visit marybirdlake.org.
About Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center
As a regional destination for cancer care, Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center offers the most advance technology and services provided by a dedicated team of nationally-recognized oncology experts. The Cancer Center provides best-practice, comprehensive care at every stage of the cancer journey, including disease site-specific multidisciplinary care teams, a robust clinical research program, extensive supportive care services and is the only facility in the Gulf South with the revolutionary Leksell Gamma Knife®Icon™. As a nonprofit organization, donor generosity is essential to sustaining the mission of improving survivorship and lessening the burden of cancer for so many throughout Southeast Louisiana and beyond. For more information on the Cancer Center, and how you can become involved, please visit mbpolol.org.