Jimmy Carter Says Recent Scans Are Clear of Cancer

UPDATE (March 7, 2016) | Carter announced on March 6 that he no longer needs to receive treatment for cancer. He shared the news to his fellow churchgoers at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter once again provided an update on his health today, saying that his most recent scans showed no cancer. Carter announced in late August that he was battling melanoma.

Carter shared the news of his clear scans today to his fellow churchgoers at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia.

“When I went this week, they didn’t find any cancer at all — so I have good news,” Carter, 91, said.

It was on August 20 that Carter first announced that he had four small spots of melanoma — about 2 mm in size — on his brain. As in August, Carter again mentioned the specifics of his care, saying that he would continue to receive intravenous infusion of the immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) every three weeks.

Keytruda is an antibody designed to disable the protein PD-1 so it cannot do its job of keeping the immune system in check; this allows T cells to become more active in recognizing and fighting cancer cells. The agent is currently approved for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma and disease progression following Yervoy (ipilimumab) and, if BRAF V600 mutation positive, a BRAF inhibitor.

Carter’s announcement during church was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but was followed by a statement from Carter himself.

“My most recent MRI brain scan did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones,” Carter said in the statement. “I will continue to receive regular three-week immunotherapy treatments of [Keytruda].”

Carter's grandson, James, tweeted "Victory!" shortly after the announcement.

In early August, Carter announced that he had a small mass removed from his liver. In the August 20 press conference, he said the tumor was 2.5 cm3 before the surgery but that surgeons removed 85 cm3 of his liver.

“[My doctors] had a very high suspicion then and now that the melanoma started somewhere else on my body and spread to my liver,” Carter said on August 20.

Carter has a family history of cancer. His brother, father and two sisters all died of pancreatic cancer and his mother had breast cancer (that later metastasized to her pancreas). Pancreatic cancer carries a five-year survival rate of about 7 percent.

Melanoma of the skin is the sixth most common type of cancer in the U.S., and is estimated to account for 73,870 new cases of cancer in 2015. The disease has a five-year survival rate of 91.5 percent. Melanoma that has metastasized to distant sites (such as the brain) has a lower five-year survival rate of approximately 17 percent.


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