Monday, May 25, 2020

~ 4000 Times the Price of Gold


I made a house call on an 90 year old patient yesterday.  He lives with his wife in an idyllic house surrounded by vernal gardens and a wetland preserve.
 
The patient was presented on VGRD in 2014 with a desmoplastic melanoma of the scalp that measured > 7.5 mm thick.  Since that time, he has done reasonably well.  A metastatic lymph node was excised from the r. preauricular area ~ 4 years ago.  He was doing well until early May, 2020 when he developed right upper quadrant pain.  The ER work-up suggested non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) and he was admitted to a local hospital.  There, elevated LFTs were noted and scans confirmed presence of multiple liver masses (largest being 3 cm diameter) and enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes (largest 3.6  cm diameter). A supraclavicular l.n. was biopsied that showed metastatic melanoma.
Significant co-morbidities include recent osteomyelitis (left foot) for which he is currently on oral medication (doxycycline), HTN, gout and the recent NSTEMI, and ischemic cardiomyopathy with a depressed EF (25-30%).
Medications: metoprolol, lisinopril, Plavix, Lipitor, allopurinol, and ASA

He is a high functioning nonagenarian who lives independently with his wife and until the past few months was doing well.

His oncologist is recommending Ketruda (pembrolizumab).  When I spoke with the patient a few days ago he told me that the oncologist said Ketruda was well-tolerated, but when I checked the oncologist’s notes the recorded discussion of side-effects ran 12 lines on the office note. 
Yesterday, the patient gave me a printout he independently made.  After he and his wife read it, and he now has doubts.  His quality of life is good, he enjoys his home, meals, and an occasional dram of Johnny Walker Black… he spoke of quality of life over a few extra months.  He’s done all he wanted to do in life.
We plan to sit down this week in my office and have a more formal discussion.

His metastatic lesions were discovered incidentally as a result of hospitalization for his NSTEMI.  Is this a good sign that pembro will be helpful, or at this time do the risks outweigh the benefits?  When the randomized studies were done with pembro, were nonagenarians with cardiomyopathy or significant co-morbidities excluded?
Your thoughts will be appreciated. 

Reference
1. Few people actually benefit from ‘breakthrough’ cancer immunotherap
y
By
Nathan Gay and Vinay Prasad. March 8, 2017. Stat Topics.  [We will try to see if the authors still believe this]

2. Alyson HaslamVinay Prasad  Estimation of the Percentage of US Patients With Cancer Who Are Eligible for and Respond to Checkpoint Inhibitor Immunotherapy Drugs. JAMA Netw. 2019 May 3;2(5):e192535.  Free Full Text at PMC.
3. Madhuri Bhandaru, Anand Rotte  Monoclonal Antibodies for the Treatment of Melanoma: Present and Future Strategies. Methods Mol Biol. 2019;1904:83-108.  A Review

 




Sunday, May 10, 2020

Hairband Alopecia in a Covid Carer

May 8, 2020
Dr. Z. is a 30 year-old ophthalmology resident called to duty on the Covid ward of a large East Coast metropolitan hospital where over a 1000 Covid patients had been treated to date.  In this age of telemedicine, she wrote me the following:
“Our community was hit hard by this pandemic, and we continue to help out on the Covid floors. It’s been a scary and yet rewarding experience!
I want to ask your opinion regarding a dermatology question! Last night I noticed a small patch of hair missing. I think it was in the area where I was wearing a tight hairband while in the hospital about 3 weeks ago. I had the hair band on for four days. It was so tight that the area would hurt when I took it off at night after a long shift. I just didn’t want any hair in front of face on Covid ward. I was wondering if there is anything I need to do about it? Or just wait for it to grow out. The scalp area looks a little red, here are two photos.”















While this appears to “pressure alopecia,” I offered to run Dr. Z.’s anamnesis by a colleague with a special interests in disorders of hair.  How we practice now is different from a few months back.  We will be seeing new variations on a theme such as perhaps, Hairband Pressure Alopecia.

References:
1. Sano DT, et. al. Headband pressure alopecia: clinical, dermoscopy, and histopathology findings in four patients. Int J Dermatol. 2018. Feb;57(2):237-239

2. Iwai T, et. al. Temporary alopecia caused by pressure from a headband used to secure a reference frame to the head during navigational surgery. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2009 Oct;47(7):573-4. 

We consulted with a dermatologist nationally recognized specialist interest hair disorders.  She responded “I do not have much experience with pressure induced alopecia, likely because the etiology is apparent and it regrows in most cases. The photos do suggest pressure alopecia, although there is a differential for patchy alopecia including alopecia areata and tinea capitis. As you know, the current theory is that it is ischemic in nature. I wonder how tight the headband was! Her area of loss is small and it looks rather non-inflammatory, so one would think prognosis for regrowth would be good. It can take a couple of months to see new sprouting hair shafts. Scarring can occur if the insult is severe or prolonged – this can sometimes result in ulceration which is not present."