Laser interstitial thermal therapy gives relief to stage IV melanoma survivor

By the time Jennifer Weihe decided to try laser interstitial thermal therapy, or LITT, with neurosurgeon Ganesh Rao, M.D., she’d already been through chemotherapy, two different forms of radiation, two skin cancer surgeries and immunotherapy. Despite all of the aggressive, cutting-edge treatments she received before LITT, the melanoma kept returning to her brain. Jennifer was one of the first patients to try the new, minimally invasive treatment with Dr. Rao, and remains cancer-free more than a year later. After a melanoma diagnosis, cancer metastasizes Jennifer was diagnosed with stage I melanoma in 2003. It was quickly and easily removed in her home state of Kentucky. When a second suspicious mole appeared 10 years later, skin cancer surgery didn’t control the melanoma for long. “I went from stage I to stage IV in six months,” Jennifer says. “The melanoma skipped over the rest of my body and went right to the brain.” Unfortunately, melanoma is one of the most common cancers to spread, or metastasize, to the brain. And metastatic brain tumors are notoriously difficult to successfully treat. Jennifer’s sister, a physician, knew it was important to get the best care possible, and recommended that Jennifer travel to MD Anderson in Houston for treatment. Choosing MD Anderson for cancer treatment Here, Jennifer’s multidisciplinary care team, including Dr. Rao, tried several different treatment approaches over the next 15 months. Jennifer did well on Keytruda®, an immunotherapy drug for melanoma, and the disease didn’t spread anywhere else in her body. But it continued to return to her brain. Jennifer was back in Kentucky when she first experienced an alarming new symptom.  “I...