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Emerging Therapies for Skin Cancer Treatment

This year, more than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Fortunately, if detected early, this potentially deadly //condition is extremely treatable, averaging a cure rate of 95 percent. While current treatments for skin cancer involve treating or removing both cancerous and healthy skin, advanced research is producing new therapies which treat only the cancerous cells.

Speaking today at ACADEMY ’06, the American Academy of Dermatology’s summer scientific meeting, dermatologist Hensin Tsao, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.D., assistant professor in the department of dermatology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., discussed emerging treatments for skin cancer.

“Cancer occurs when a normal cell in the body circumnavigates the normal growth checks and evades the immune system,” explained Dr. Tsao. “As technologies have advanced, it has become easier to identify cancer mutations, allowing us to better understand these growth signals and utilize this information to develop therapies that specifically target cancer cells.”

Targeted Therapies
Targeted therapies represent a new type of treatment against cancer. These therapies are able to detect the difference between cancer cells and “healthy” cells by targeting the genes or proteins that contribute to the development and growth of cancer. Several targeted therapies have recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer and research continues to develop more.

Targeted therapies were derived from a basic understanding of the cancer cell. In order for cells to grow, divide or die, they send and receive chemical messages. These messages are transmitted along specific pathways that involve various genes and proteins in a cell. “Genes that become mutated activate pathways which tell cells to proliferate,” described Dr. Tsao. “In other words, the traffic lights are always green and the brakes are frequ
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