The Melanoma Program at Yale is a multidisciplinary team developed over 25 years ago to discover new treatments and provide state-of-the-art treatment for patients with melanoma. In order to achieve its objectives, the Melanoma Program brings together scientists, specialists in melanoma surgery, medical oncologists devoted to melanoma treatment, dermatologists, pathologists, dermatopathologists, radiologists, geneticists, and psychotherapists.
The Melanoma Program is co-directed by Dr. Stephan Ariyan and Dr. Mario Sznol. Dr. Ariyan is a nationally recognized plastic surgeon and former Chief of Plastic Surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital with 30 years of experience in the care of melanoma patients. Dr. Sznol is the vice chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and has nationally recognized expertise in drug development and improvement of immunotherapy treatments for melanoma.
Joining Dr. Sznol in the medical treatment of patients with melanoma is Dr. Harriet Kluger. In addition to caring for melanoma patients, Dr. Kluger is involved in conducting studies on patients' tumors and blood samples and incorporating these findings into the clinical trials available through the Melanoma Program, facilitating bench-to-bedside advances.
Clinical care of melanoma patients at Smilow Cancer Hospital is a coordinated effort of the Melanoma Program surgeons, medical oncologists, dermatologists, radiologists, surgical and dermatologic pathologists, and radiologists. Dr. Ariyan directs a weekly tumor board conference in which care and management of patients is discussed among the program members. Clinical history, physical exam findings, surgical procedures, x-ray studies, and pathology slides are reviewed at the conference, and optimal approaches to treatment are proposed and discussed at length.
The basic foundations of the Melanoma Program are basic research, clinical research, and skilled multidisciplinary care of patients. Dr. Ruth Halaban, a molecular biologist who has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of melanoma biology, heads the basic research efforts in melanoma. Dr. Halaban is Director of the Yale SPORE in Skin Cancer grant from the National Institutes of Health, one of only 5 in the country, which supports multiple research projects in melanoma that translate basic science into clinical application.
Dr. Sznol leads the Melanoma Program clinical research initiatives. The goal of the clinical research program is to introduce and investigate novel treatments for patients with melanoma. Currently, six clinical trials are available for patients with metastatic disease at Smilow Cancer Hospital, including novel chemotherapy regimens, anti-angiogenesis agents (drugs that destroy or inhibit the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors), and new agents that stimulate the body’s immune system to attack the melanoma tumors. In addition, patients with metastatic melanoma who are no longer eligible for melanoma-specific studies may be offered novel cancer treatments through the Yale Cancer Center Phase I Clinical Trial Program.