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