Dermatologist collaborates with other specialists to treat transplant patient
Needing to protect a patient’s recently transplanted kidney while treating his melanoma, a multidisciplinary care team saved his life.
Anthony Shultz's story
With a history of melanoma—the most serious form of skin cancer—and a recent kidney transplant, it’s very important that I stay in tune with any changes to my body.
Not long after my kidney transplant, I noticed red bumps on my head and the side of my face near where I previously was diagnosed with skin cancer. When I saw my dermatologist, Dr. Jennifer Choi, she discovered that my prior melanoma had spread to other parts of my head.
Melanoma that spreads is incredibly dangerous and my body could reject my new kidney with the wrong cancer treatments. It was scary to face two life-threatening problems at once, but my doctors were phenomenal and I had faith in their abilities to determine the best path forward.
Dr. Choi quickly collaborated with the other doctors involved in my care, including Dr. Aneesha Shetty, my nephrologist who is a kidney specialist, and Dr. Jeffrey Sosman, the oncologist who guides my battle with skin cancer. Together, they determined the best approach for treating the melanoma—taking into consideration treatment side effects—to make sure the treatment protected and did not pose harm to my new kidney.
Every two weeks, Dr. Choi administered up to 10 injections directly into the areas with melanoma to stimulate my immune system and applied a topical cream. It was a careful balance, because the injections could cause my body to reject my new kidney. I had side effects from the treatments, including flu-like symptoms, but I thankfully saw progress in just a few weeks. I was so relieved when the melanoma was completely gone in 16 weeks.
Initially, I was devastated to learn that the melanoma had spread after having just successfully undergone a kidney transplant. I am grateful to have a team of physicians who worked together to consider all aspects of my health and ultimately saved my life. This experience opened my eyes to the many skills and expertise of dermatologists and the importance of having one in my corner.
The dermatologist's perspective
“While dermatologists are experts in everything related to skin, hair, and nails, many people don’t realize the complexity of diseases that we treat and manage. While injections like those Anthony received might normally be administered by a surgical oncologist, this type of treatment is within dermatologists’ realm of expertise and allows us to provide critical, lifesaving care. Collaborating with Anthony’s oncologist and nephrologist was also critical in providing the optimal management of his melanoma given his recent kidney transplant.”
─ Jennifer N. Choi, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Chief, Division of Oncodermatology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center
The nephrologist's perspective
“Following Anthony’s melanoma diagnosis, I worked closely with Dr. Choi to decrease Anthony’s immunosuppression enough to allow for treatment, while still keeping his body from rejecting the kidney. Being part of the incredible teamwork and coordination across specialties to create an effective and safe treatment plan for Anthony was an honor for me.”
─ Aneesha A. Shetty, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Nephrology and Organ Transplantation, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Patient & physician stories
Learn how board-certified dermatologists have helped patients with serious skin disease and collaborated with other doctors to enhance patient care.Browse all stories