Managing Director, Save Your Skin Foundation
Save Your Skin Foundation is a national patient-led not-for-profit organization dedicated to the fight against all skin cancers.
Mediaplanet: What has been the biggest shift in cancer care in the last decade?
Natalie Richardson: Immuno-oncology and targeted therapies have changed the landscape of cancer treatment. Not only are patients living longer, they also have improved quality of life while in treatment. Innovative treatments are continuing to become more personalized and customized to rare sub-types of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
What’s the most significant advancement in the last year?
Previously, patients had to wait until their melanoma had advanced to stage 4 to be eligible for immuno-oncology and targeted therapies. Now, provinces have started to approve these treatments for patients at an earlier stage. This is important because before this, patients at an earlier stage were often left to “watch and wait” to see if their cancer returned after a surgical removal — a terrifying prospect for any cancer patient.
What cutting-edge research provides hope for the future of cancer treatment and care?
Ocular melanoma represents less than 5% of all melanoma cases, but is rapid and aggressive, accounting for 9% of melanoma deaths. Outcomes for those with metastatic disease are dismal due to a lack of effective therapies. However, increased awareness and new research, including liver-directed therapies, are finally providing some hope for these patients.
What else do you think Canadians should be aware of when it comes to awareness, diagnosis, or treatment of skin cancer?
It’s important for people to recognize just how prevalent skin cancer is. There are 80,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in Canada every year. That’s more than lung, prostate, breast, and colon cancers combined! Over 7,200 of those are melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Every year, more than 1,200 Canadians die from melanoma. It’s so important for people to understand the seriousness of this disease, and that it’s not “just skin cancer.” Prevention and early detection are the best defence. We ask people to take precautions when they’re out in the sun and to check their skin often for new, unusual, or changing moles.