Melanoma blood test could save thousands

Edith Cowan University

Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

Melanoma blood test could save thousands

A new blood test can identify melanoma in its initial stages, potentially saving thousands of lives.

Current survival rates for melanoma are between 90 and 95% if the disease is detected early — if the cancer spreads, survival rates drop to below 50%.

The new blood test, developed by scientists from Edith Cowan University (ECU), is an innovation which could significantly increase a patient’s chances of survival — and potentially save the health system millions of dollars.

The blood test was trialled on a total of 209 people, 105 of whom had melanoma, and picked up early-stage melanoma in 81.5% of cases.

It works by detecting antibodies produced by the body in response to melanoma. The team examined 1627 different antibodies and identified a combination of 10 that are the most reliable in predicting the presence of melanoma.

Currently, melanomas are detected visually by clinicians, with any areas of concern biopsied; however, three out of four biopsies return negative results. Biopsies are uncomfortable for patients and expensive — Australians spend $201 million on the procedure annually, $73 million of which is accounted for by negative biopsies.

“Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer type in Australia and it is estimated that almost 14,000 cases were diagnosed last year. Sadly it takes the lives of around 1500 Australians each year,” said Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda.

While supportive of the research, she said clinical trials in a larger sample are required to test what impact it has on survival in the real world.

Professor Rodney Sinclair, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Melbourne, said the blood test was a promising step forward but would need to be combined with a full skin check by a dermatologist.

The next step for ECU is a clinical trial to validate the findings. The scientists say the blood test could be available for clinical use in around three years.

The research has been published in Oncotarget.

Image credit: © Gretka

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