I recently read a report in March in the journal Drugs in Dermatology about a man with metastatic melanoma (spreading skin cancer,) who had a partial regression of internal melanoma spreading. It occurred after applying a cream to the skin that was prescribed for lesser skin cancers. The cream is Imiquimod, and was designed to stimulate the immune system to react against pre-cancers, warts, and occasionally, as in this patient, for basal cell carcinomas (the most common kind of skin cancer)
It works by stimulating a primitive form of the immune system, called “Toll-Like Receptors” (TLRs), which are a very primitive form division of the immune system that are present not only in other mammals, but also in other species including insects. Imiquimod works by stimulating a TLR called TLR 7, which then signals other branches of the immune system to join the battle and attack and destroy the tumor.
Interestingly, this patient could not tolerate other treatment he had been given, so, on his own, he used the Imiquimod prescribed to him for a lesser skin cancer on the superficial metastatic lesions on his tummy skin, and the internal melanoma in his liver went away completely, and other internal melanomas got smaller.
The point of this comment is not to suggest Imiqimod for melanoma treatment; it may only work in certain cases, but rather to show that the right kind of stimulation of the immune system can make a great difference in reducing the size of potentially deadly cancers like metastatic melanoma.
The literature contains numerous reports and case reports of melanoma getting smaller or disappearing with other immune stimulants including chemicals like dinitrochlorobenzene (DNCB) and diphencyprone, and microbial stimulants such as Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin (BCG).
Not everyone responds to any given stimulus, so the challenge is to identify what the most likely stimulus is to get a melanoma rejected, and what else is necessary to get someone’s immune system to be strong enough to fight it off.
These are questions that I have been wrestling with in laboratories from Sloane Kettering to the National Cancer Institute over the past 5 decades.
To your health,
Dr. Alan M. Dattner
New York, New York
As always, the content of this blog is for information and education purposes only, and should not be used to prevent, diagnose or treat illness; please see your physician for care.