This week we will discuss a rare type of cancer. Our guest on today’s show is Chris White. Mucosal melanoma is a rare but aggressive disease usually diagnosed in advanced stages. Unlike most melanomas, which start in the skin, mucosal melanoma starts in the moist membranes that line the inside of the body, including the digestive tract.
All melanomas start in pigmented cells called melanocytes. Mucosal melanoma accounts for 1.4 percent of all melanomas, according to a 2018 review in Melanoma Management.
Most mucosal melanoma cases start in the lining of the head, neck, anus, vagina or vulva. Cases inside the gastrointestinal tract are less prevalent.
The disease may be called invasive if it’s spread deep into the tissue and metastatic if it’s spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.
Mucosal melanoma hasn’t been linked to any specific causes. Generally, older people are diagnosed, with the median age being 70. While the rate of skin melanoma cases has risen in the past 20 years, the rate of mucosal melanoma has always been fairly similar over time.
More About Our Guest
Chris’s story begins in Colorado Springs where he was born in 1982. His parents and two siblings moved to Irvine California where he grew up before moving to North Texas. He received his Associates of Arts degree at Collin College, followed by his BA at University Texas Dallas in 2005. After college, his career path included time in the in the oil and gas industry, working with independent SAP contract consultants as well as working in the Golf department at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas. His career path took a turn in 2016 when he worked in the home building industry as a construction manager. An avid snowboarder, he has always been active, enjoying outdoor activities.
His cancer journey began in the summer of 2018 when what he had believed was a hemorrhoid actually turned out to be cancer. Not just any cancer, but the diagnosis was Anorectal Mucosal Melanoma which is an extremely aggressive cancer with a low survival rate. The following months included multiple surgeries, immunotherapies, chemotherapy and radiation. Despite the treatments, the cancer had metastasized throughout his body to his lungs, liver, kidneys and brain. His health was declining rapidly, and without any other options, he was fortunate enough to qualify as the last patient admitted to a TILs Therapy Clinical Trial at the University of Colorado Health Cancer Care located at the Philip Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora Colorado. The TILs therapy was done in January of 2020 and within less than a year the tumors were gone. Not in remission but gone. The TILS therapy is revolutionary in that it eradicates the tumor rather than leaving it dormant. This clinical trial for TILS therapy saved his life. He was able to go back to work in homebuilding but realized his passion is sharing his cancer survival story.
Currently he works as a Certified Melanoma Educator through the Melanoma Research Foundation. He is involved with many melanoma patient advocacy groups throughout the world listening to other stories while sharing his own via group chats, industry panels and forums any format that can offer some patient the comfort that there may a cure for their cancer. Any contribution to the MRF aids the fight against Melanoma and Chris thanks you for your support and generosity.