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Former President Carter to get radiation, new immune therapy for skin cancer

August 20, 2015

DrBalducci640.jpg Age by itself does not preclude successful cancer treatment, says Dr. Lodovico Balducci.

Former President Jimmy Carter revealed Thursday that he has melanoma and has begun treatments for four small brain tumors.

Last week, Carter announced that recent liver surgery found cancer that had spread to other parts of his body.

Carter, who turns 91 in October, said his treatment will include radiation to the tumors in addition to taking pembrolizumab, or Keytruda — a Merck & Co. drug recently approved for treating melanoma.

Jeffrey S. Weber, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center of Excellence at Moffitt Cancer Center, was one of the lead investigators of the PD-1 clinical trial which led to the drug receiving breakthrough status from the FDA in September 2014.

“Pembrolizumab is the first PD-1 drug to be approved by the FDA, and it is a clearly effective drug that will prolong survival for many patients with metastatic melanoma.  This approval is a real advance, and a major milestone in the treatment of the disease,” Weber said last year.

Age by itself does not preclude successful cancer treatment, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Dr. Lodovico Balducci told the Associated Press.

Dr. Balducci, program leader of the Senior Adult Oncology Program, said much of it depends on the patient's "biological" age versus his actual years.

“When you’re dealing with somebody like President Carter, who still has several years of life in front of himself, who has good stamina and able to tolerate many forms of stress, I think it is mandatory to offer to him the most effective treatment,” says Dr. Balducci, who specializes in treating cancer in the elderly. “The message I try to broadcast nationwide, worldwide during the past 25 years is that older patients should not be written off from effective cancer treatments just because of their age, that is a terrible injustice.”

Read more news from Moffitt Cancer Center.