An Australian scientist has discovered a new method to more accurately detect melanoma, one of Australia’s most common, and most deadly, forms of cancer. Currently melanoma is diagnosed in 11,000 people annually, and causes 1,500 deaths each year.
Mitchell Stark, a PhD candidate and research assistant at Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has discovered seven new melanoma markers in blood. These markers can help track new patients’ melanoma progression, or if there has been a recurrence of the disease in previous sufferers. All via a routine blood test.
“The blood test could indicate those really early signs of progression you can’t see in the scans just yet,” said Mr Stark.
“If your scans are negative and your blood test is positive then you need to be monitored more closely”.
Mr Stark thinks the clinical tool could be available within two years, and will make a major dent in what is a big health problem.
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The discovery was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Queensland University of Technology, and Queensland Government’s Smart Futures Fund study. 380 people took part, mostly Australian, but also in Germany, a population not highly affected by melanoma, so useful as a comparison.
Queensland Science and Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch hailed the discovery as a major breakthrough, particularly for her home state.
“This is an important discovery for a state with the highest rate of melanoma in the world,” she said. “The ability to identify signs of melanoma progression sooner will be a valuable clinical tool”.
“Testing for these new markers in regular blood tests will also help to determine whether stressful and expensive CT scanning is necessary at each follow-up.”
“This is an excellent example of the world-leading research at QIMR Berghofer which has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of patients in Queensland and around the world.”
Have you, or family or friends been afflicted with this all too common Australian health problem? We hope this treatment comes on board quickly, and helps anyone in danger of contracting this awful disease.