Chai’s Annual Natalie Shipman Memorial Lecture

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‘Treatment for Melanoma – From Zero to Hero’ was the fascinating topic of Chai Cancer Care’s 27th annual Natalie Shipman Memorial Lecture at its flagship Centre in Hendon on Tuesday 24th of October. 

The Lecture Hall was filled to capacity to hear from Dr David Chao, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, Clinical Director of Skin Pathway, London Cancer. In the Chair for the 25th year was Professor Albert Singer, Consultant (Hon) The Whittington Hospital.

Chairman Louise Hager welcomed guests and spoke passionately about Natalie Shipman z’l and how she inspired Chai’s inception 27 years ago. She said, “We are commemorating Natalie Shipman who passed away just before her 8th Birthday, having been diagnosed with a brain tumour at 3 years old. She was an exceptional child with an incredible personality. Her positive spirit and love of life is something that will remain with us forever.”

Dr Chao’s detailed presentation highlighted the advances in the treatment of malignant Melanoma. He described how the approach to Melanoma has transformed dramatically over the last 5-6 years, “Melanoma has changed in just 5 years out of all recognition. For many years, Melanoma was very very difficult to treat and surgery was the best form of treatment. Then all that changed – from March 2011 onwards marked the change in treatments,” said Dr Chao. He also described the important factors that increase the risk of Melanoma, such as short intense episodes of sun exposure, the use of sunbeds and sunburn as “Every episode of sunburn will increase your risk of Melanoma.” Dr Chao went on to discuss Immunotherapy drug treatments and the “fantastic advancements” these drugs have made: “For the first time in our drug history for cancer, we have drug treatments that work for multiple cancers. Melanoma is the poster boy for Immunotherapy, and we are seeing long term survival and potentially a cure for many. However, with this new treatment comes a different set of side effects which affect the immune system. Unfortunately, unlike Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy, once treatment is stopped the side effects carry on. This is because once you’ve activated the immune system, you can’t control it. As a result, we are now seeing the beginnings of trials which look at boosting the immune system and these are positive developments that we need to keep an eye on.”

Following the lecture the audience took part in a lively question and answer session which gave them the opportunity to ask an expert in this field the questions that were of concern to them.

Dr Chao said: ““It was a real pleasure and privilege to be invited to speak at Chai. I have heard much about the organisation and it was so nice to visit and see the wonderful work you are all doing.”