Moffitt trial working on advanced melanoma

New melanoma therapy targets immune system

Tampa, Fl - Britta Beningfield has nothing but praise for the Moffitt Cancer Center physician who enrolled her in a clinical trial she credits with saving her life.

She met Dr. Amod Sarnaik after her melanoma metastasized and spread to her abdomen.

The tumor eroded through the wall of her stomach, causing pain and hemorrhaging.

“I would have been worm food for over a year by now. When things started coming back very aggressively, I think nobody expected me to ever make it out of the hospital,” Beningfield said.

But Sarnik enrolled her in a clinical trial that was testing whether a high-dose infusion of the patient's own T-cells – essential to your immunity – would boost her immune system's response to melanoma cells.

First she had surgery to remove the tumor. Then T-cells were taken from the tumor and delivered to a lab.

“Those cells can be grown in tens of thousands in number, much higher than you can get giving a patient immunotherapy,” Sarnik said. “When the cells are grown big enough, they're given back to the patient as treatment."

The T-cells, combined with a medication in pill form, shrinks the tumor. Beningfield’s body reacted well to the treatment.

“She's 18 months since we operated on her and she has no evidence of disease,” the doctor said.

The mass no longer appears in CT scans.

“I've been feeling pretty good,” Beningfield said. “I'm doing things I like to do. I intend to keep this going. I feel like I have super human t cells in there just waiting to pounce on another melanoma."

We’re taking action for your health by giving you an opportunity to ask a doctor your melanoma-related questions via phone. The phone bank begins noon Monday. To reach it, call 888-209-8881.

In addition, several clinics are offering free skin cancer screenings Monday:

Florida Hospital in North Pinellas
1501 Alternate 19 S.
Suite T
Tarpon Springs
8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Walk-ins welcome
For appointment, call: 
727-943-3600

University of South Florida Dermatology in Tampa
USF Health Morsani Center

13330 USF Laurel Drive
Sixth Floor
Tampa, 
Fl 33612
5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
First come first serve

813-974-4744

Morton Plant Hospital's Cheek-Powell Heart and Vascular Pavilion
Meeting rooms A and B
455 Pinellas St.
Clearwater, FL
Registration Required
727-953-6877

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