Internationally recognised melanoma expert Professor John Thompson has been named NSW's top cancer researcher of the year.
5th August 2013
Professor John Thomson, Executive Director, Melanoma Institute Australia and Professor of Melanoma and Surgical Oncology at the University of Sydney, has received the Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher. Premier Barry O’Farrell bestowed the honour on Professor Thompson, at the 2013 Premier's Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research, held by the Cancer Institute NSW.
"Melanoma is Australia's national cancer challenge, given we have the highest incidence of this deadly disease in the world. I am pleased to recognise work being done by Professor Thompson at the Melanoma Institute Australia and University of Sydney is offering us real advances in the prevention, detection and treatment of melanoma. He and his team have made a significant and sustained contribution to the field of melanoma research," said Mr O'Farrell.
The Melanoma Institute Australia has further cause for celebration as Dr Georgina Long, a clinical researcher and medical oncologist at the Institute received the award for Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow, and Dr Pascale Guiterra took home The Wildfire Award.
Read online: Cancer Institute NSW 9News The Australian Herald Sun
Photos provided by Cancer Institute NSW.
A very inspiring insight into the generous philanthropy of our benefactor, Greg Poche, and Chairman, Reg Richardson.
23rd June 2013
ABC Compass explores philanthropy in Australia by following four wealthy business people who give by donating generously to medical research, health and education. Among them is Greg Poche who has donated a staggering $105 million, including the generous donation that purpose-built the world-class, integrated melanoma treatment facility and Melanoma Institute Australia headquarters, The Poche Centre. All are passionate about giving, and want philanthropy to feature more prominently on our national agenda.
An experimental, immunotherapy drug shows great promise in treating advanced melanoma.
4th June 2013
A study showing promising results of drugs in reversing the size of tumours in patients with metastatic melanoma has been published in New England Journal of Medicine.
The new drugs work by releasing the brake on the body's own immune system, allowing it to immediately go to work and kill the cancerous cells. The trials found that the drugs significantly shrank tumours in 38% of patients, with minimal side effects. There are plans to test the drug treatment on a range of other cancers.
Melanoma Institute Australia medical oncologist and Co-Director of Research, Professor Rick Kefford was at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago where the results of the study were presented.
The drugs are now entering into phase three clinical trial with the hope of becoming more widely available in 12-18 months time. Professor Kefford said, “This really is a major step forward and it's going to be of great benefit to many people with this disease.”
Parliamentarians Join Inaugural Melanoma March
21st March 2013
Parliamentarians hit the pavement this morning to take part in a march at Parliament House in support of finding a cure for deadly melanoma. Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, with an estimated 12,770 cases in 2011 which is expected to increase to 17,570 cases by 2020. The average survival of metastatic melanoma patients is 6 months with a 1 year death rate of 75 per cent without treatment.
Ms Deborah O’Neill MP, Chair of Parliamentarians Supporting Cancer Causes, said the Melanoma March was a chance for MPs and Senators to show their support for Australians impacted by melanoma in the community. “Melanoma is unfortunately known as ‘Australia’s national cancer’ with more than 1,500 Australians losing their lives to this deadly disease each year. Events like Melanoma March are a chance to remember those who have died and support the researchers who work tirelessly to find a cure” said Ms O’Neill.
Professor John Thompson, Executive Director, Melanoma Institute Australia said, “Those of us who are involved in the prevention and treatment of melanoma through research, clinical treatment and education programs are grateful for the support of Parliamentarians for this nationally important work. It is important to help raise awareness of the seriousness of this potentially devastating disease and the need for access to new treatments when they become available” said Professor Thompson.
Mr John Stubbs, Executive Officer of canSpeak and one of the supporters of the march, said “This is the first time that Melanoma March has been held at Parliament House, and we hope to highlight the impact of the devastating impact of melanoma on our community and put melanoma squarely on the national agenda.”
Melanoma Institute Australia’s Melanoma March at Parliament House is supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche.
About Melanoma Institute Australia
Melanoma Institute Australia is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing and curing melanoma through innovative, world-class research, treatment and education programs. Based in the Poche Centre, the world’s largest melanoma research and treatment centre, Melanoma Institute Australia is affiliated with the University of Sydney and St Vincent’s and Mater Health Sydney.
Melanoma Institute Australia relies on the generosity of individuals, organisations and government funding to continue its ground breaking work into this potentially devastating cancer.
About Parliamentarians Supporting Cancer Causes
The purpose of the group is to allow Parliamentarians to gain an understanding of the issues and concerns within the community about cancer (particularly those cancers which do not have a high public profile and which are not well funded) and to receive updates on the health, social and economic impacts as well as clinical information regarding research and advances in treatment. This will enable parliamentarians to make more informed responses to inquiries from constituents and to participate in local public discussions and importantly assist in the development of robust and appropriate public policy.
Parliamentarians Supporting Cancer Causes also provides access to materials, brochures for use in local media and electoral offices and hosts an event in Parliament House three times each year. The group is assisted in organising events by cancer advocacy organisation, canSpeak.
Thousands of Australians Pledge Support to Help Find a Cure for Melanoma – Australia's National Cancer
6th March 2013
Some of Australia’s leading business, entertainment, sporting and community personalities are preparing to march this month to help raise money that will be used to fund research into finding a cure for deadly melanoma.
Business, political and entertainment identities who will march in Sydney and several NSW regional cities on Sunday March 24 include national television presenter Lisa Wilkinson, Olympic swimming gold medalist Stephanie Rice and celebrity chef Hayden Quinn.
Funds raised from the march will support efforts by world-leading Australian researchers seeking to unlock the genetic code that causes some people to develop melanoma. The wider community is also urged to help their efforts by remembering the 1,500 Australians who die from melanoma every year.
The event on Sunday 24 March hopes to raise $200,000 and increase awareness about the issue of melanoma and the urgent need to fund research into finding new therapies and a cure.
Melanoma Institute Australia’s Executive Director Professor John Thompson said, “Those of us who are involved in the prevention and treatment of melanoma through research, clinical treatment and education programs are grateful for the growing support from communities across Australia for this crucial work.”
"The support for Melanoma March this year confirms there is a growing awareness of the incidence of melanoma, particularly among young people, and a willingness to help improve the outcome for patients now and to support research that offers hope to future generations."
Television presenter and journalist Lisa Wilkinson said she was honoured to use her profile to raise awareness of the disease. “As someone who has had a melanoma scare and has been lucky to have had it treated early and not spread, I am proud to support this important life-saving work that helps so many Australians and their families.”
Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. Around 12,500 new cases are diagnosed annually and it kills 1,500 a year.
Melanoma Institute Australia is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing and curing melanoma through innovative, world-class research, treatment and education programs.Based at the Poche Centre in North Sydney, it is now the world’s largest melanoma research and treatment centre. Melanoma Institute Australia relies on the generosity of individuals, organisations and government funding to continue its ground-breaking work into this potentially devastating cancer.
Professor Thompson added, “All members of the community are welcome to join us in marching for a cure and every year the march becomes bigger and attracts a growing number of people of all ages right across the community who are keen help.”
NATIONAL MELANOMA MARCH EVENT CALENDAR
Date: Sunday 24 March 2013
Register online at melanomamarch.com.au
• Individuals - $25 each
• Students and Pensioners - $20 each
• Pairs - $40
• Families (2 adults; up to 2 kids) - $60
• Teams (5 people min) - $100 (additional people $20 each) * Note: Children under 5 are free
Download press release.
Australian researchers confirm new drug shrinks brain tumours in melanoma patients
8th October 2012
Australian researchers have given new hope to patients with advanced melanoma by showing that a new drug targeting a common mutation in melanoma successfully shrank tumors that had spread to the brain.
The results of their 172 patient Phase II multicentre open-label study at 24 hospitals across six countries are published online first The Lancet Oncology medical journal on October 8.
Nearly half of all patients with advanced melanoma will develop brain tumours (metastases) during the course of their disease. Until now, there have been very few effective treatment options.
The new drug called dabrafenib targets the V600E BRAF mutation that is active in half of melanoma cases.
The study was the largest conducted on melanoma patients with brain metastases and was led by researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia, Westmead Hospital, Westmead Institute for Cancer Research and The University of Sydney.
The new data build on the results of a smaller Phase I study published in May 2012 that revealed the drug they had been testing to treat melanoma patients also had the ability to shrink secondary metastases in the brains of patients with advanced forms of the disease.
The Phase I trial showed brain metastases in nine of the 10 patients shrank within the first six weeks. All 10 patients survived beyond five months, two patients survived beyond 12 months. One patient was alive at 19 months.
The Phase II trial divided patients into two groups – one group had never received prior treatment for brain metastases. The other had received prior treatment for brain metastases but had since progressed.
The primary outcome of the study was the proportion of patients with the V600E BRAF mutation who responded to the drug, and the researchers found that dabrafenib had activity in at least 30% of patients, with or without prior treatment.
Furthermore, in patients with the V600E BRAF mutation, intracranial disease control (one of the secondary outcomes) was achieved in 81 per cent of patients who had no prior treatment for brain metastases and 89 per cent of patients who had received prior treatment and progressed.
The researchers concluded that the drug may add months to the lives of patients whose melanoma has spread to the brain. Most patients with brain metastases don’t survive past four months.
Lead author Dr Georgina Long from Melanoma Institute Australia and Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney said, "This is the largest confirmatory evidence that we have a systemic drug therapy that helps prolong survival in patients with multiple melanoma brain metastases. The findings are among the most important in the history of drug treatment for melanoma.”
The drug dabrafenib is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline which sponsored the study.
Download press release.
Australian researchers help show two-drug melanoma combination helps slow cancer in study
3rd October 2012
Australian researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia and Westmead Hospital in Sydney have published the results of a study that shows a combination of two experimental melanoma drugs helped slow the cancer’s progress longer than a single-drug treatment.
Patients taking the new melanoma drugs dabrafenib and trametinib together delayed tumors from progressing for 9.4 months, compared with 5.8 months for patients taking dabrafenib alone, according to the study of 162 patients. The trial was part of the second of three phases of studies by researchers in Australia, the US and Europe.
Dabrafenib works by blocking BRAF, a mutant gene that spurs cancer-cell growth in about half of melanoma patients, while at the same time, trametinib thwarts a related protein called MEK, which helps tumours resist an attack on BRAF.
The study, funded by the pharmaceutical company GSK, was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Vienna over the weekend by Dr Georgina Long from Melanoma Institute Australia, Westmead Hospital and The University of Sydney, and simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The phase I and II trials focused on combining two drugs to delay the resistance to BRAF inhibition. The study tested two doses of trametinib. The combination of drugs prolonged progression-free survival over single-drug therapy from 5.8 months to 9.4 months, which represented a 60% improvement. Among patients who received both drugs at the higher dose, 41 percent had not progressed 12 months after treatment began, compared with 9 percent in the single-drug arm of the study.
Patients taking the two medicines together had lower incidence side effects including rash and skin lesions, often associated with single agent dabrafenib.
Adding the MEK drug may reduce a side effect of BRAF drugs, the development of non-melanoma skin cancer, while possibly boosting efficacy, according to Dr Georgina Long, a study leader and oncologist with Melanoma Institute Australia and Westmead Hospital in Sydney.
Dr Long said, “Understanding melanoma and its mutations helps highlight more deadly weaknesses of the cancer, which we can exploit using new drugs and drug combinations.”
“We know that resistance emerges within 5-6 months of treating patients with single-agent selective BRAF inhibitor. We also know that most of the resistance mechanisms identified so far result in re-activation of the pathway that the BRAF inhibitor initially blocked (MAP kinase pathway). This was the basis of the rationale to trial the addition of a MEK inhibitor. It blocks the same pathway, but lower down, and we hoped that by combining both drugs we would see a significant delay in the emergence resistance that would impact patients lives.”
“The combination therapy of the BRAF inhibitor dabrafenib and the MEK inhibitor trametinib prolongs the progression-free survival in patients with V600 BRAF mutation-positive metastatic melanoma compared with dabrafenib monotherapy. Importantly, the combination also decreases the rate of the cutaneous toxicities compared with dabrafenib monotherapy, particularly the oncogenic cutaneous toxicity of squamous cell carcinoma,” Dr Long said.
Download press release
Australians warned of melanoma danger ahead of summer months
13th September 2012
As people across the country start to head outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather, Melanoma Institute Australia is calling on Australians to protect themselves against the sun and limit exposure to potentially harmful UV rays.
The warning comes as Melanoma Institute Australia – a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing and curing melanoma through innovative, world-class research, treatment and education programs – launches National Shade Day, a month-long campaign with Toyota to raise awareness of melanoma and raise funds for much-needed research.
“We’re very lucky in Australia, but being such an outdoor nation we need to be sun smart. Melanoma is the most serious and life-threatening form of skin cancer and Australia has the highest incidence in the world. It’s even been called ‘Australia’s national cancer’,” said Melanoma Institute Australia Executive Director, Professor John Thompson.
Melanoma Institute Australia says Australians should protect themselves from the sun in five ways by:
Seeking shade, especially in the hottest part of the day
Wearing sun-protective clothing that covers your back, shoulders, arms and legs
Wearing a broad-brimmed hat
Applying a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or exercise
Wearing wrap-around sunglasses
With Toyota as the principal sponsor of National Shade Day (Saturday, 8 September), this month-long awareness and fundraising campaign is a way for the community to get involved and help raise awareness of this deadly cancer. People can get involved through taking part in an individual or team personal challenge, or workplace fundraisers. An educational program has also been developed for high schools to raise awareness of melanoma in the schools.
Toyota is also donating a brand new 86 vehicle for a raffle which will raise money for research via www.nationalshadeday.com.au.
The nation’s football stars have also thrown their support behind the campaign. North Queensland Cowboys captain, Johnathan Thurston says: “I love getting outside and feeling the sun on my face, but I also know how to protect myself against harmful damage. Now, as we head into summer, it’s crucial to protect yourself from the sun in five ways.”
NSW Government funding support helps start Australia’s largest Melanoma Genome Project
24th August 2012
The NSW Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner today launched the Australian Melanoma Genome Project, an ambitious and important two-year national research program that aims to identify the common gene mutations that lead to melanoma.
The effort aims to identify new targets for effective treatments based on the genetic characteristics of individual melanomas.
The project, developed and co-ordinated by Melanoma Institute Australia, will cost $5.5 million over two years and has been largely funded by private donors.
The NSW Government contributed $500,000 towards the initiative to reach the funding target.
Minister Skinner said the NSW Government is proud to support the quality medical research and clinical work undertaken by Melanoma Institute Australia which seeks to find better treatments and a cure for a cancer that affects many young Australians.
“The NSW Government is committed to high quality medical research and I am proud that we are able to join the large number of generous private donors to support this effort.
“We have delivered on our commitment to establish an Office of Health and Medical Research, to develop a ten year Health and Medical Research Plan for NSW and to increase funding to support medical research, like that undertaken by Melanoma Institute Australia,” Mrs Skinner said.
Most of the melanoma tumour samples to be used are from the Melanoma Institute Australia BioSpecimen Bank of melanoma tissues, the largest in the world, a key factor enabling the project to be undertaken in Australia.
Executive Director of Melanoma Institute Australia, Professor John Thompson said, “This generous funding from the NSW Government supplements the support we have received from hundreds of generous private donors throughout Australia, and will serve to reassure them that they are supporting a most important project.
“It will allow us to expedite this important research and deliver meaningful outcomes to the people in our community who need it most. We would be surprised if this work does not translate into a major extension of life for thousands of people worldwide with melanoma.
“The Melanoma Genome Project will build on Australia’s international leadership in this area and move the world’s medical knowledge closer to being able to prevent and cure melanoma. It will lead to better diagnostic tests and new drugs which can specifically target the mutations that are causing this particular cancer,” he added.
A national coalition of researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and NSW Health Pathology, and Queensland Institute of Medical Research will work together to identify all the common gene mutations that cause deadly melanoma.
The researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia are confident that their work will deliver new treatments and better outcomes for melanoma patients everywhere.
The identification of the BRAF gene mutation in 2002 led to the development of new targeted drugs now available worldwide that shrink tumours in melanoma patients with the mutation. The BRAF mutation is one of the genetic mutations found in about half of all melanoma tumours. The new targeted drugs block the growth of these tumours.
Bioplatforms Australia, with funds provided by the Commonwealth Government through the Education Investment Fund Super Science program, have committed in the order of $1.5 million to support the initiative through access to their national network of genomics sequencing and bioinformatics facilities.
The Cancer Council NSW has sponsored the project with a grant of $500,000.
The Cancer Institute NSW and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) are also providing support via Program Grants to the investigators.
Download press release
Podcast of presentation from launch (Dr Georgina Long)
Melanoma gene discovery opens door to new treatments
30th July 2012
Scientists have identified a new gene mutation found almost exclusively in melanomas caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
The discovery by researchers at Queensland Institute of Medical Research, in collaboration with researchers from Yale University in the US, is a good drug target and could lead to new therapies for the 9 per cent of people with this type of melanoma.
Professor Nick Hayward, from Queensland Institute of Medical Research’s Oncogenomics Laboratory and member of Melanoma Institute Australia’s Research Committee, said the finding, published in Nature Genetics, provided fresh leads for treatment.
Scientists at Yale University School of Medicine analysed every gene in 147 melanomas to discover the abnormality in RAC1. QIMR scientists validated the discovery, in the largest DNA sequencing study of melanoma ever undertaken.
It’s the third most frequent gene mutation, after BRAF and NRAS, and provides a clear path for developing new therapies.
“We now have our most comprehensive picture yet of the molecular landscape of melanoma,” Professor Hayward said. “This opens the door to further targeted therapies tailored to the individual patient, which should improve overall survival rates.”
Dr Georgina Long, medical oncologist from Melanoma Institute Australia, commented on the finding, “It is a significant finding, particularly for Australia which has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.
“Understanding more about the link between exposure to sunlight and the development of melanoma is important. Genetic mutations, including the BRAF mutation present in about half of all melanomas in Australia, has lead to recent new drug treatments showing great promise for patients with metastatic melanoma.
“Our aim is to be able to tailor each patient’s treatment to the genetic nature of their tumour and this discovery is a great step in the potential for the development of improved treatment options for patients with melanoma.“
The study appears in the July 29 online publication of Nature Genetics.
Download press release.
Professor Richard Scolyer awarded Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow
24th July 2012
The Cancer Institute NSW's Annual Cancer Awards Night was held in Sydney on Friday night to honour the work of the state's most innovative and dynamic cancer researchers. Professor Richard Scolyer from Melanoma Institute Australia was awarded the Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow for his work to improve the management and treatment of people with melanoma. This is the the second time Professor Scoyler has received the prestigious award for his outstanding work in melanoma.
Held annually, the event celebrates the amazing work of researchers in NSW and their achievements in making sure people with cancer have the latest and best treatment options available to them. This new information is providing the evidence we need to drive rapid improvement in cancer prevention, treatment, care and ultimately, survival outcomes.
Click here to read the media release. Photo courtesy of Cancer Institute NSW.
Lisa Wilkinson becomes ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia
8th July 2012
Media personality, Lisa Wilkinson, has been announced as an ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia.
Lisa is one of Australia’s most admired and respected journalists and co-hosts the Nine Network’s TODAY Show with Karl Stefanovic.
Lisa has been personally touched by melanoma. A small freckle between her eyes turned was fortunately removed at an early stage.
"It was a strange situation because it had been there for a very long time and had developed over a long time," Lisa said. "I thought it was just a freckle sitting right between my eyes and I think it had probably been there for 20 years, I don't remember it not being there."
After her husband, Peter FitzSimons, encouraged her to get it checked by a dermatologist, it turned out to be melanoma. Read more about Lisa's story.
"There is a reason why this happened and I need to do whatever I can to spread the message," she said. Lisa's role as ambassador will see her using her profile to increase awareness of this disease that kills 1200 Australians every year.
Lisa is pictured, above, with Melanoma Institute Australia's Chairman Reg Richardson AM, fellow Ambassador John Eales AM, and benefactor Greg Poche AO.
Read more about Lisa.
Targeted treatment for melanoma now available in Australia
19th June 2012
A drug that significantly extends the life expectancy of patients with a particular type of advanced melanoma has been approved for use in Australia.
The targeted treatment option Zelboraf (vemurafenib) has now been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for people that have advanced melanoma with a specific gene mutation, called BRAF (V600). Zelboraf is an example of a ‘personalised medicine’– in this case, a medicine which is specifically designed for people with a type of melanoma that can be determined through a diagnostic test.
Given the current unmet need in advanced melanoma, stakeholders around the world have worked together to develop, approve and fund Zelboraf as quickly as possible. Australian patients were some of the first in the world to receive Zelboraf as part of early clinical trials, some of which were held at Melanoma Institute Australia. With melanoma being ‘Australia’s cancer’, funding via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is the next vital step. Zelboraf is already funded in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and the United States. In the United Kingdom it is available through a special cancer medicines fund, prior to formal reimbursement assessment, to ensure patients get immediate access.
According to Dr Georgina Long, Clinical Researcher and Medical Oncologist at Melanoma Institute Australia and Westmead Hospital, who was involved in the research: “Advanced melanoma is an aggressive and deadly disease with very few effective drug treatments. Thanks to a better understanding of the melanoma genetic profile, Australians living with advanced melanoma may benefit from personalised medicine, such as vemurafenib, which is designed to target a specific form of melanoma.”
Whilst generally curable if diagnosed early, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body. In this advanced stage, five-year survival rates drop from more than 90% to less than 10%, with only about one in four people with advanced melanoma expected to be alive after one year.
“With the average survival time for people with advanced melanoma being only about nine months, we need effective and targeted treatment options that can slow the progression of melanoma and extend life. There are many new therapies in clinical development which we hope prove to have activity in melanoma and may provide patients with treatment options in the near-future,” added Dr Long.
Roche has submitted a joint application to have Zelboraf funded via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and a BRAF diagnostic test added to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). It is anticipated that a decision on PBS and MBS listings will be known by November 2012.
“Given Australia’s high rate of melanoma and the fact that clinical development of Zelboraf was done here – we hope that the Australian government sees funding as a priority. As part of our commitment to improving patient care and outcomes, Roche is providing immediate access to high quality, rapid BRAF gene testing and Zelboraf treatment for eligible patients, whilst PBS and MBS funding is being considered,” said Fred Nadjarian, Managing Director at Roche.
The Roche-funded access program will be reviewed in November 2012, once an outcome to the PBS and MBS funding applications is known.
Associate Professor Stretch receives Queen's Birthday Honours
11th June 2012
In the Queen's Birthday Honours for 2012, Associate Professor Jonathan Stretch was awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to medicine and to the community as a plastic surgeon and oncologist and through Melanoma Institute Australia.
A/Prof Stretch has been the Deputy Director of the Melanoma Institute Australia since its inception in 2007. As an Associate Professor of Melanoma and Skin Oncology at The University of Sydney, he undertook his surgical training in Sydney becoming a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (Plastic Surgery) in 1987. Thereafter he was Overseas Fellow at the Radcliffe Infirmary and Research Fellow in the Nuffield Department of Surgery, Oxford.
A/Prof Stretch's doctoral research investigated the local dissemination of melanoma. He was appointed to Royal North Shore Hospital in 1991 and the Sydney Melanoma Unit in 2002.
Australian Researchers Discover New Drug Works To Shrink Brain Tumors in Melanoma Patients
18th May 2012
Australian researchers reported promising results with a new drug that shrinks brain tumours in melanoma patients. Their findings are published in The Lancet medical journal today.
Medical researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia, Sydney's Westmead Hospital and Westmead Millennium Institute, and The University of Sydney say a new drug they have been testing to treat deadly melanoma in the body also shows, for the first time, an ability to shrink secondary tumours (metastases) in the brains of patients with advanced forms of the disease.
They say the new drug may add months to the lives of patients whose melanoma has spread to the brain. Most patients with brain metastases die within four months. The trial’s results, however, showed brain tumours in nine of the 10 patients shrank within the first six weeks. All 10 patients survived beyond five months, two patients survived beyond 12 months. One patient was alive at 19 months.
The drug called Dabrafenib works by targeting a gene mutation found in melanoma cancer, called the BRAF mutation, which is present in 50 per cent of human melanomas. The drug works by binding to the activated mutant form of the BRAF protein in the melanoma cell, causing the cell to stop proliferating. In many cases it shrinks and disappears.
The study focused on the most common BRAF gene mutation (V600E) and a particular type of the BRAF mutation (V600K) that is common in Australians where cumulative UV exposure from the sun is higher than in other parts of the world.
The lead author of the study, Dr Georgina Long, from Melanoma Institute Australia, Westmead Hospital and The University of Sydney, said, "This is the first evidence that we have a systemic drug therapy that helps prolong survival in patients with multiple melanoma brain metastases. The findings are among the most important in the history of drug treatment for melanoma.
"Currently there is no effective systemic treatment for melanoma brain metastases, and patients whose cancer has spread to the brain are frequently excluded from promising clinical trials. Until now, there has not been a single drug that has shrunk brain metastases in more than ten out of 100 patients with metastatic melanoma. This drug had a 90 per cent success rate in reducing the size of brain metastases.
“Brain metastases in melanoma are a major unsolved problem. Until now, melanoma has been notoriously resistant to drug therapy in general, and responses in highly lethal brain metastases are particularly uncommon. Providing these early data are supported in larger cohorts of patients, and durable responses are confirmed, this activity in the brain may assist in addressing a large unmet need in patients with metastatic melanoma worldwide. Historically, researchers have been reluctant to concentrate on brain metastases because the survival period is so short,” Dr Long said.
But Dr Long and Westmead Hospital specialist Professor Rick Kefford AM, who also leads cancer research at the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research and Melanoma Institute Australia, lobbied hard to extend the trial to focus directly on people with brain metastasis and the BRAF variation seen more commonly in Australia. They can take special credit for this trial’s success.
Download press release
Melanoma Institute Australia awarded $5000 grant to spread melanoma awareness
11th May 2012
Melanoma prevention is fundamental to the mission of Melanoma Institute Australia. Thanks to a $5000 donation from Tour de Cure, we now have the opportunity to raise awareness of melanoma to the people of Townsville and surrounding areas.
As part of the Tour de Cure Signature Tour, grants are awarded to community projects that aim to benefit the local community in which the tour stops each night. Together with our enthusiastic community fundraisers based in Townsville, Melanoma Institute Australia will use the grant money to send our Community Co-ordinator, Jay Allen, to Townsville to raise awareness of melanoma through community engagements. Jay will be speaking to local schools and community groups in August. This tour of Townsville will coincide with a gala ball to raise money for melanoma research. To find out more about the tour of Townsville or the gala ball,
In addition to the community project grant, Melanoma Institute Australia is one of the major recipients of funding for the Research Projects category. This money will be used to support our Melanoma Genome Project.
Ambassador Hayden Quinn wins CLEO Bachelor of the Year
19th April 2012
Melanoma Institute Australia's new ambassador Hayden Quinn has won CLEO magazine’s Bachelor of the Year competition for 2012.
The 25-year-old former Masterchef contestant and professional lifeguard was the most popular choice of voters, taking out the title over the other 49 Bachelor of the Year finalists, and walking away with a $10,000 cash prize.
Melanoma March Success
25th March 2012
Over 850 members of the community from across Sydney and beyond gathered at the beautiful Manly Beach to march for melanoma—Australia’s national cancer.
As the first of its kind held in Sydney, Melanoma Institute Australia led the way with Melanoma March proving a great opportunity for the community to unite against melanoma.
Enthusiastic walkers milled at the start line as Chanel Ten’s Brad McEwan entertained the crowd with Institute Ambassador Hayden Quinn from MasterChef. Hayden kept the younger members of the crowd captivated with his tips on staying sun smart and his plans for competing in the upcoming surf life saving national championships. Manly Mayor Jean Hay with Reg Richardson AM, cut the ribbon as the walkers began their 3.2 km walk from Lagoon Park along Manly Beach to finish at Shelly Beach.
As walkers rounded the shoreline at Shelly Beach 1,200 red, yellow and orange flowers placed in the sand in the served as a poignant reminder of the 1,200 Australians who die from melanoma each year.
Nineteen year old Andrew Morbey was one of the Melanoma Marchers who chose to walk in memory of his father, David. who lost his battle with melanoma 15 months ago. "The walk was a great opportunity to reflect on the last year or so and be able to share some memories and stories about Dad with the friends that walked with me. It was a really nice way to remember him and others who have either passed away or survived their battle with melanoma," Andrew said.
Andrew and his mother together raised $12,350 for Melanoma March and were our biggest fundraisers. "Being one of four children, my dad was highly involved in our sporting and school activities and made an impression on the people he met during these times. So my mother and I had a lot of people, including my friends, that were more than happy to donate to Melanoma Institute Australia. It is quite overwhelming at times seeing the people who are there for you and care about you."
NSW Treasurer and Member for Manly Mike Baird congratulated walkers at the end and highlighted the impact of melanoma on the community.
Tony Abbott sent a message of support to everyone participating in the march. “Your march provides an opportunity to raise awareness, to support those who have been diagnosed and to remember those who have lost their fight to it. I congratulate everyone participating in the Melanoma March for getting involved in a good cause."
In addition to raising awareness of melanoma, over $100,000 was raised to support the vital work of Melanoma Institute Australia in melanoma research, treatment and education.
Thank you to everyone involved in our first Melanoma March! We simply could not have done it without the wonderful contribution of our volunteers, the support from our sponsors and the enthusiasm and fundraising efforts of our Melanoma Marchers.
Click here for more photos.
Jim Stynes loses his battle with melanoma
20th March 2012
Our sincere condolences and thoughts go out to the family and friends of football legend Jim Stynes who passed away at the age of 45 this morning after battling with melanoma for over 2 years.
Sadly melanoma is a disease that affects young people in the prime of their life. It is the most common cancer among young Australians affecting more people aged 15 to 44 years than any other cancer.
Jim will always be remembered for his extraordinary dedication to Australian sport, his commitment to philanthropy, and his determination to never give up.
Surf Life Saving’s new partnership takes on fight against melanoma
17th February 2012
Surf Life Saving Australia and Melanoma Institute Australia today announced a new strategic partnership that will see the two organisations advance the fight on our beaches against deadly melanoma, ‘Australia’s national cancer’.
SLSA President, Graham Ford, welcomed Melanoma Institute Australia’s involvement with Surf Life Saving in providing important sun protection education and awareness about melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.
The partnership will see the expansion of Surf Life Saving Australia’s public education and safety programs for sun safety. A Melanoma Institute world-leading medical specialist will also join Surf Life Saving Australia’s national medical advisory Board to expand the movement’s specialist knowledge in melanoma.
“Surf Life Saving is extremely happy to partner with Melanoma Institute Australia in this community-wide program, to help educate and protect the dedicated, volunteer surf lifesavers patrolling our beaches and the millions of visitors to Australia’s beaches each year. The partnership will include wide ranging education about melanoma, and how to detect and prevent it through our volunteers, nipper programs, clubs and events,” said Mr Ford.
“Melanoma Institute’s world-leading expertise will be invaluable for sun safety education. Our aim is to make sure beachgoers are aware of the dangers of the harsh Australian sun and know how to protect themselves. We want people to feel safe at our beaches, not only in the water, but also on the sand where they are greatly exposed to the sun,” he continued.
There are over 44,000 patrolling surf lifesavers around Australia and 100 million visits to our beaches every year.
Melanoma Institute Australia’s Chairman, Reg Richardson AM, said, “We look forward to working closely with Surf Life Saving Australia in making sure the entire beach is covered when it comes to safety and education. We welcome Surf Life Saving Australia’s commitment to champion the sun safe message and the fight against melanoma. Surf Life Saving is an iconic Australian organisation and we will be working closely together to help prevent this deadly disease through wider education.”
“Not many people are aware that melanoma is a young person’s cancer and that it is largely preventable. We want to encourage everyone to protect themselves from the sun’s potentially harmful UV rays and still enjoy a day at the beach,” said Mr Richardson.
Melanoma is the most common cancer in people aged 15 to 44 years. Australia has by far the highest incidence rate for melanoma in the world and melanoma is often referred to as ‘Australia’s national cancer’. Over 11,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and the numbers are increasing. Over 1,200 Australians die of melanoma every year.
Melanoma represents approximately 2.3% of all skin cancer however it is responsible for 76% of all skin cancer deaths in Australia.
Cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation over years, especially for young people, even without sunburn, can result in skin damage and increase the risk of getting skin cancer.
In partnership with Surf Life Saving Australia, Melanoma Institute Australia will educate beach goers on sun protection through a range of proactive initiatives which will also include the key messages:
Seek shade to avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm). Remember that the reflection of UV radiation from surfaces like sand and water causes you to burn, even if you think you are protected. Use sun shelters or shade such as umbrellas and beach tents whenever possible.
Wear sun-protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.
Wear a broad-brimmed hat that covers your face and neck (caps do not provide adequate protection from the sun).
Wear wrap-around sunglasses.
Apply SPF30+ broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sun. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or exercising.
By consistently following these five simple steps, all Australians can reduce the incidence of melanoma.
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