A clinical trial for melanoma: Daniel's story

A dermatologist uses a magnify glass to examine a man's back

Roswell Park's location in Jamestown made access to world-class cancer care more convenient.

Daniel Drum of Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, has lived through more than his fair share of medical traumas and treatments. At age 66, he has survived a triple bypass, angioplasty, three back surgeries, shoulder surgery and removal of a cancerous section of his ear.

When his primary doctor noticed unusual looking moles on the left side of his back last year, he was referred for a complete body skin exam. Biopsies resulted in a diagnosis of stage 2 melanoma, a type of skin cancer that is more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. While concerned, Drum wasn’t shocked. “I’ve been dealing with serious health issues since I had my heart attack at age 36. I have two brothers who have had melanoma, and my daughter lost a large chunk from the back of her calf from melanoma when she was in her 20s. It’s upsetting but we’ve all learned to take care of ourselves immediately and work with medical experts.”

Expert consultations, clinical trials closer to home

Drum was referred to surgical oncologist Shalana O’Brien, MD, at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s location in Jamestown, NY. “It was upsetting to hear about cancer, but I wasn’t overly concerned because I know about Roswell Park’s track record. Right from the start, everyone was great about getting my appointments for evaluation and treatment set up. Two weeks later I was getting my testing done.”

Jamestown Medical Oncology and Hematology Building
Roswell Park's Jamestown location offers quality care and access to clinical trials, conveniently located for our patients in Chautauqua County.

Surgery followed. “Once we saw the results, we realized that the cancer was a little further along than we’d thought at first. I appreciated that I was well-informed every step of the way and that there were no surprises. Dr. O’Brien and I discussed my scans and bloodwork, and the decision was made to remove a bigger chunk from my back, making the surgery a little more concerning, but I had faith in them.”

Dr. O’Brien has been part of the Jamestown location for the past two years. She knows the area well, with close family living nearby. “We continue to see an increased incidence of skin cancer in this part of New York State,” says Dr. O’Brien. “In an area like Jamestown where people spend a lot of time outdoors near the lake, we see greater numbers of skin cancers, compared to areas where people spend more time indoors.”

The Roswell Park location in Jamestown specializes in skin cancers including melanoma, in addition to providing treatments and services for gynecologic and hematologic cancers, and chemotherapy infusions. Currently, the location is participating in a new clinical trial for patients with stage 2 melanoma, part of an international clinical trial that includes 117 centers in the United States. Drum was considered a good candidate and participated in the trial.

“This trial is looking at how smaller excisions will affect survival,” says Dr. O’Brien, who serves as principal investigator. “We don’t want to overtreat people, because there can be side effects related to more extensive operations or treatments. We’re trying to give adequate treatment with less invasive surgery.”

Reducing your melanoma risk

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2023, about 97,610 new melanomas were expected to be diagnosed in the United States and about 7,990 people are expected to die of melanoma. Top of the list for melanoma risk factors includes excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, followed by tanning beds, lighter skin, history of sunburn, many or unusual moles, a previous skin cancer and inherited conditions or weakened immune systems. Age and gender play a role as well — risk increases in men over 60; however, the cancer also is on the rise in people younger than 30. Melanoma is now one of the most common cancers among young women.

One in five Americans is expected to develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Dr. O’Brien encourages avoiding exposure to the sun, seeking shade during the sun’s most intense hours between 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., using and reapplying SPF 30+ sunscreen every two hours, and/or wearing protective hats and clothing. She also encourages regular body checks with primary physicians or a dermatologist to check out any skin spots, sores or bumps on the body or face that look different.

With specialists in various practices close to home, Drum says he appreciates the communication and coordination between his medical care team. “I check in every three months with Dr. O’Brien,” he says. "I’ve been to appointments at Roswell Park in Buffalo but being able to see my providers in Jamestown is more convenient and saves me hours of driving.”

Asked for his advice to others, Drum says, “I’ve got a seven-inch scar to remind me to be careful. If you see something suspicious, get it checked out. It's one of those things that you don’t want to wait too long to take care of because it can just get worse. It doesn't take a lot of effort to get a biopsy done and it might save your life.”

Cancer care closer to you

You can access Roswell Park quality cancer care through our network of community cancer and specialized care providers, all throughout New York State.

Learn more Why Roswell Park for melanoma?

Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.