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Immunotherapy leaves Mesa man cancer-free one year after diagnosis


New breakthrough is saving lives of patients with deadliest cancers

PHOENIX, Ariz. (July 1, 2019) – A 39-year-old Mesa man is cancer-free one year after being diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of cancer, at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. 

Bryce Dunnuck was treated with immunotherapy, which is a new breakthrough that is saving the lives of people with the deadliest cancers.

“Thirty years ago, getting melanoma would have been a different story,” Dunnuck says. “I thank my lucky stars I got referred to the right people at the right place to help me beat this.” 

Patients at The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s are benefitting from immunotherapy, a treatment that unleashes or strengthens the immune system so it can recognize and fight deadly cancer cells. While the immune system is designed to recognize and attack foreign substances in the body, leaving normal tissues alone, cancer can suppress the immune system and render it unable to recognize cancer cells as foreign.
 
“These drugs take the blindfolds off our immune cells, letting them ‘see’ the cancer and do the job they were born to do,” says Debra Wong, MD, melanoma and gynecologic medical oncologist at the Cancer Center. “Immunotherapy releases the brakes on immune cells called T-lymphocytes, and allows them to target the cancer and trigger an amplified immune response. The effect is powerful and long-lasting in patients whose cancers respond to immune-based therapies.”

Skin cancer awareness is critical with summer in full swing and many Valley residents enjoying their pools and other outdoor activities. About 170 Arizonans die of melanoma every year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. 

Dunnuck worked in the pool industry for 18 years, spending long days in the sun. Now that his cancer is in remission, he prefers to stay indoors most of the time.

“I’m sure that prolonged exposure to the sun had an impact at some point,” he says.

Dunnuck says that he would tell other cancer patients to strongly consider immunotherapy if it is available to them. 

“I would tell them that immunotherapy is a life saver and it saves you from the side effects of chemotherapy, which is very harsh on the body,” he says. “I would definitely say it is the option to go with if that is available to you. Absolutely, hands-down it was the right treatment for me – and the Cancer Center at St. Joseph’s was the right place,” he says.

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About Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center
Located in the heart of Phoenix, Ariz., St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is a 586-bed, not-for-profit hospital that provides a wide range of health, social and support services with special advocacy for the poor and underserved. St. Joseph’s is a nationally recognized center for quality tertiary care, medical education and research. It includes the internationally renowned Barrow Neurological Institute, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Norton Thoracic Institute.  U.S. News & World Report routinely ranks St. Joseph’s among the best hospitals in the United States for neurology and neurosurgery.  For more information please visit our website at www.dignityhealth.org/stjosephs

 

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