LOCAL scientists have made a major melanoma research breakthrough, which could help improve survival rates of the aggressive cancer.
The ECU Melanoma Research Group, based at the Joondalup campus, has discovered a blood test, which can detect relapses early, while lessening the need for expensive scans and the discomfort of biopsies.
Head researcher Mel Ziman said the key to improving survival rates was routine monitoring.
The blood test would allow doctors to monitor a patient more frequently, giving them a better indication of the patient’s health than current methods.
It would also allow superior monitoring of the effectiveness of drug treatments.
“With this test we can detect when drugs are effective, or when the patient relapses very much earlier than current clinical methods of assessment, providing a safe, effective liquid biopsy, showing information about disease burden in real time,” Professor Ziman said.
“Despite the significant success of recent melanoma treatments, some therapies are effective in only a proportion of patients – about 15 to 35 per cent – and other treatments only work for a short period due to the development of drug resistance.
“Most importantly, the blood test can reduce patient anxiety while waiting for the results of radiological scans, as they can have the blood test as often as necessary without any side-effects.”
Prof Ziman said the only current way to assess the success of treatment was through an invasive biopsy and scans.
She said the biopsy only provided information about a single tumour at a particular point in time, while the scans were expensive and exposed patients to high doses of radiation.
The professor explained the blood test would help specialists better personalise therapy plans for patients, reduce costs and lessen side-effects.
The National Health and Medical Research Council recently awarded an $820,000 grant towards the study.
The ECU team is working with clinicians at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Fiona Stanley Hospital and Rockingham General Hospital.
PathWest and biotechnology company BioRad are also involved.
HALLOWEEN was all treat and no trickery for ECU Joondalup’s Melanoma Research Group, which received thousands of dollars in funding.
The group was the benefactor of the university’s Halloween fundraiser Run For It, earning nearly $10,000 for its research into a revolutionary melanoma blood test.
Run For It participants navigated a 2km or 5km course, with an army of chilling characters giving them scares along the way.
More than 500 attendees paid for entry to the October 29 event, with all funds going to the research collective.