It started out, years ago, as a little freckle.
But as the spot on Carol Stegall's foot over time grew larger and different in appearance, it worried her to the point that in 2008, the Terry resident visited her family physician.
He performed a freezing procedure on the suspicious spot. It got worse. A plastic surgeon's diagnosis of melanoma was the beginning of years of surgeries, drugs that left Stegall feverish and barely able to crawl across the floor, and a sinking feeling as melanoma popped up in another area, then another.
Today, Carol Stegall's cancer hasn't disappeared. But a promising injectable immunotherapy treatment she's receiving at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is helping to shrink the spots, giving Stegall hope that her disease will retreat.
“We've been told that with all of the advancements being made, that if someone is going to have melanoma, now's the time to have it,” Stegall said. “I feel good. If I didn't know something was wrong, most of the time I wouldn't.”
UMMC physicians Dr. Shannon Orr, assistant professor of transplant surgery and a surgical oncologist, and Dr. Natale Sheehan, assistant professor of medicine and a medical oncologist, are collaborating to provide Stegall's care just miles from her house. She was faced with driving eight hours to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston every two weeks to receive injections of the drug Imlygic, an oncolytic virus therapy that received Federal Drug Administration approval in October 2015 for the treatment of melanoma lesions that can't be removed completely by surgery.
It was the longstanding relationship between Dr. Merrick Ross, a surgical oncologist at Anderson who Orr trained under while a fellow there, and a conversation between Stegall and a friend who works at UMMC, that got Stegall's treatments started earlier this spring. Imlygic is administered nowhere else in Mississippi. No physicians administer it in Alabama or Louisiana, with the closest location being Memphis, Orr said.
It takes about an hour for Stegall to receive the treatment at the Multidisciplinary Melanoma Clinic at the UMMC Cancer Institute. The clinic is the only one its kind in Mississippi.Continue Reading...