Former President Jimmy Carter Has No Detectable Cancer

Nick Mulcahy

December 07, 2015

Former President Jimmy Carter, 91, announced that he is now clear of cancer, as his melanoma has apparently responded well to treatment.

"My most recent MRI brain scan did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots, nor any new ones. I will continue to receive regular 3-week immunotherapy treatments of pembrolizumab," he said in a press statement issued by the Carter Center on December 6.

Yesterday, a smiling Carter told a gathering at his church in Plains, Georgia, that he had "good news" at his most recent doctor's visit. "When I went this week, they didn't find any cancer at all," he reported.

In August, Carter underwent surgery to remove a liver mass, which was then confirmed to be melanoma. And when he underwent further imaging, the disease was shown to have spread to his brain.

Notably, Carter's melanoma is uncommon because it has not manifested on his skin.

MRI revealed four spots of melanoma in Carter's brain, each only about 2 mm in size, for which he received four cycles of radiation delivered every 3 weeks.

For the cancer in his brain, Carter received stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), a relatively new approach to radiation therapy that has been gaining ground in recent years. SRS is a more targeted approach than traditional whole-brain radiation therapy.

He also has been receiving ongoing treatment with the intravenous immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck), which was the first programmed cell death inhibitor for metastatic melanoma to be approved in the United States.

Carter's treatment has prompted news coverage and conversations about the care of elderly cancer patients, among other things.

When the news of Carter's cancer and his subsequent treatment broke earlier this year, various physicians made the point that, when treating cancer in elderly patients, age is not necessarily the most important factor.

"Older patients should not be written off cancer treatments just because of their age," said Lodovico Balducci, MD, from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, in an NBC news report.

"We can't automatically think that a 90-year-old person cannot tolerate treatment, because sometimes they can," said Gijsberta van Londen, MD, an oncologist and geriatrician at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said in a report published in the Tribune Review.

"Doctors no longer look at years in the calendar, they look at the person sitting in front of them," said Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, in that same report. "Nowadays, there are some treatments with side effects that aren't as severe."

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