Can­cer break­through

New tests for melanoma

Wanneroo Weekender - - News - Lau­ren Pi­lat

JOON­DALUP-based re­searchers are among teams of Aus­tralian ex­perts de­vel­op­ing ground-break­ing ways of de­tect­ing can­cer­ous melanomas early in pa­tients by us­ing a sim­ple blood test.

Edith Cowan Univer­sity Joon­dalup re­searchers and Mel­bourne-based com­pany Ge­ne­seq Bio­sciences have separately de­vel­oped what each con­sid­ers a ‘world first’ blood test di­ag­nos­ing skin can­cer ear­lier and more ac­cu­rately.

In 2016, ECU’s Melanoma Re­search Group (MRG) de­vel­oped the MelDx blood test to pre­dict the ef­fec­tive­ness of dif­fer­ent types of treat­ments for melanoma pa­tients af­ter re­ceiv­ing fund­ing from Can­cer Coun­cil WA, Na­tional Health and Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil, and Tour de Can­cer Aus­tralia.

In the same year, Dr Ryan van Laar launched Ge­ne­seq and un­veiled the Me­laseq blood test that pin­points the ‘molec­u­lar fin­ger­print’ of melanoma in the ear­li­est stages.

Both break­throughs are said to en­hance the cur­rent method of vis­ually check­ing a pa­tient for skin can­cers and tak­ing a biopsy of any ab­nor­mal­i­ties.

ECU’s MelDx de­tected early stage melanoma in 79 per cent of cases out of the 105 peo­ple in­volved in the re­cent trial.

Lead ECU re­searcher Pauline Zaenker said iden­ti­fy­ing melanoma early was the best way to pre­vent th­ese deaths.

“Pa­tients who have their melanoma de­tected in its early stage have a five-year survival rate of be­tween 90 and 99 per cent, whereas if it is not caught early and it spreads around the body, the five-year survival rate drops to less than 50 per cent,” she said.

“This is what makes this blood test so ex­cit­ing as a po­ten­tial screen­ing tool be­cause it can pick up melanoma in its very early stages.”

MRG head pro­fes­sor Mel Zi­man said a fol­low-up clin­i­cal trial was ex­pected to take three years to val­i­date the find­ings and if suc­cess­ful, a test would be ready for use in pathol­ogy clin­ics soon af­ter.

“The ul­ti­mate goal is for this blood test to be used to pro­vide greater di­ag­nos­tic cer­tainty prior to biopsy,” she said.

Pic­ture: Martin Ken­nealey­mu­ni­

d484896 Pro­fes­sor Mel Zi­man, head pro­fes­sor of ECU’s melanoma re­search group.

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