Immunotherapy clinical trial gives four-time skin cancer survivor another chance

As a child growing up in the 1950s, Dean Potter spent a great deal of time outdoors working on his family’s Rhode Island farm, playing at the beach and sailing on the bay. But he didn’t use sunscreen, because the product was still in its infancy back then. “In those days, you put baby oil on to get the first good burn of the season, and then tanned the rest of the summer,” Dean says. “We didn’t know any better.” So, when Dean was diagnosed with skin cancer 50 years later, it didn’t really come as a surprise. During a routine exam in 2009, his internist noticed a lesion on his chest that wasn’t healing. She told him to get it checked out. It turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma. “I wasn’t shocked,” Dean says. Squamous cell carcinoma returns A dermatologist removed Dean’s lesion twice. And when a new lesion reappeared right above the original location just a year later, the dermatologist removed that, too. Dean remained cancer-free for the next four years. Then he started experiencing stiffness in his right shoulder. “I played a lot of tennis at the time, so I assumed it was related to that,” Dean says. An X-ray ruled out a torn rotator cuff, so Dean’s orthopedist prescribed physical therapy. The exercises seemed to help, and his range of motion improved. But during Dean’s last session, the physical therapist noticed a lump in his right armpit and urged him to get it checked out. “I’d been aware of it for several months, but it was just like the harmless fatty lump I had...