AHN Announces Plans for Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center at West Penn Hospital

PITTSBURGH, PA. (April 15, 2021) – Allegheny Health Network (AHN) today announced plans to build a state-of-the art Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center at West Penn Hospital. The $14 million facility is expected to be completed in early 2022 and will provide cancer patients with one-stop access to the network’s comprehensive clinical and surgical expertise, as well as leading-edge therapies and technologies.

“Skin cancer is extremely common, and almost always treatable if it is found early,” said Howard Edington, MD, AHN surgical oncologist who is leading AHN’s development of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center. “Melanoma is a less common but more deadly form of skin cancer, and the number of cases is rising, particularly in younger people.”

“Our goal for this amazing new center is to create a place where clinicians and researchers work together to advance the diagnosis and treatment of all skin cancers, and where health care providers collaborate to provide patients with seamless care that addresses their needs and gives them their best chance of a positive outcome,” Dr. Edington said.

More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In the U.S., more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, and more than two people die of the disease every hour.

About 1 in 50 Americans will develop melanoma during their lifetimes, and its incidence has doubled over the past 30 years, according to the Melanoma Research Alliance. About 166,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma annually and about 7,000 die of the disease. Skin cancers, including melanoma, are strongly connected with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from tanning beds.

The AHN Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center will unite physicians in dermatology, medical, surgical and radiation oncology, radiology and pathology, integrative medicine and psychiatry with nurse navigators, social workers and other support staff to surround patients with every possible resource to aid their cancer journey and recovery. The AHN Cancer Institute is currently offering innovative treatments for skin cancers, such as oncolytic virus therapy for inoperable melanoma. Treatment is delivered directly into the patient’s tumor, and the therapy acts in concert with the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.

Clinical and translational research conducted at the new center will focus on additional new medical therapies, real-time diagnostic technologies that help doctors catch cancer at its earliest stages and identifying novel biomarkers that can be used to develop precision medicine that target cancers’ individual genetic makeup.

AHN cancer specialists are currently collaborating with an industry partner to study the immune cells and surface receptors present in cancerous tumors, as well as the creation of a biobank of patients’ blood samples and tumors. Both will be used to assess patients’ responses to different treatments with a goal of being able to offer therapies that are targeted to individual cancers.

The Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center is funded in part by a generous donation from the West Penn Hospital Foundation.

“The West Penn Hospital Foundation’s investment in the AHN Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center will improve the experience and outcomes of those who are diagnosed with skin cancer, and we thank them for their foresight and generosity,” said David L. Bartlett, MD, Chair, AHN Cancer Institute. “The Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center, along with other recent investments in our capabilities, such as our new Clinical Genomics Laboratory, will advance AHN’s commitment to offering the most advanced, personalized care for cancer patients.”