Using the herpes virus to fight melanoma

Area’s only oncologic dermatologist taps research, innovative therapies to trounce deadly cancer and serious skin disorders

Jae Y. Jung, M.D., Ph.D., an oncologic dermatologist, recently joined Norton Cancer Institute, where she sees patients with skin cancer and serious skin-related disorders or complications. To date, Dr. Jung is the first cancer specialist within the Louisville area who has a subspecialty in dermatologic oncology.

One focus of Dr. Jung’s work is melanoma. She is the only dermatologist in this area using a harmless form of the herpes virus to treat melanoma.

This innovative treatment is a type of oncolytic therapy. Oncolytic simply means the virus infects and kills cancer cells. When the harmless herpes virus is delivered directly to a cancerous lesion, it triggers the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

“I’m excited to be able to offer patients this promising treatment,” Dr. Jung said. “We’re seeing extraordinary results nationwide with this approach. Two of my past patients had complete remissions.”

Dr. Jung earned medical and doctorate degrees from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and completed her residency there. Her dermatology fellowship was with University of Utah Department of Dermatology. Her doctorate research was on chronic inflammation and infection. She spent four years at City of Hope’s National Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles, California.

Dr. Jung’s office is located at Norton Cancer Institute – Downtown, 675 S. Floyd St., Louisville, Kentucky. Her office may be reached by calling (502) 629-4440.

Immunotherapy and other forms of targeted treatment that draw on the power of the body’s natural defense system are creating great hope among cancer specialists and researchers. Norton Cancer Institute’s research program offers access to more than 50 clinical trials, including a number that use immunotherapy approaches.

Dr. Jung has called immunotherapy treatment options “game-changers” for melanoma patients.

“We’re seeing an amazing number of new therapies for skin cancers, and for inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema as well,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Melanoma is responsible for 75 percent of all deaths caused by skin cancer. Kentucky ranks among the top 10 states in the nation for highest incidence of melanoma.

While melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, it accounts for less than 10 percent of all cases. Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, represent the majority of all new cases.

Dr. Jung will be working with the radiation oncology team to use new Xoft technology to treat certain non-melanoma skin cancers. Xoft is a special radiation therapy that minimizes potential damage to skin surrounding a lesion. It can be delivered in clinical settings without the use of a radioactive isotope, so there’s no need to work in a shielded vault.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Jung and the unique treatment innovations she brings our patients,” said Joseph Flynn, D.O., MPH, FACP, executive director and physician-in-chief, Norton Cancer Institute. “She will contribute significantly to our robust research program that makes top-level clinical trials available close to home for those who can benefit most from them.”

Dr. Jung has significant experience treating skin, hair and nail complications related to chemotherapy. She also specializes in treating graft-versus-host disease, a potentially serious complication associated with bone marrow transplants in which the transplanted immune cells attack the patient’s body.

 


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