All Aussies should have access to this lifesaver

All Aussies should have access to this lifesaver

*This article was originally published in The Daily Telegraph*

I originally thought the melanoma on my knee was a blood-blister.

My doctor didn’t flag any great cause for concern, but I just hated the look of it.

I consulted a plastic surgeon to remove the shiny red patch and they submitted a sample to be tested for skin cancer. It took them a while to come back with a definitive diagnosis, then I got the devastating news — it was melanoma. I had surgery to remove the tumour but it was too late, the cancer had already spread across multiple lymph nodes.

I was rattled. As a mother of two children who were just 11 and 13 years old at the time, this was hard news to digest. Melanoma takes the lives of 1800 Australians each year and, all of a sudden, I was at risk of becoming one of them.

The week I was diagnosed, my family and I watched a 60 Minutes segment about a women younger than myself who passed away from an aggressive melanoma tumour. Growing up in Australia, we are inundated with so many stories like these — after all, melanoma is our “national cancer.” I’d heard so much about the worst-case scenario for melanoma patients, that my outlook on my diagnosis was incredibly grim.

Melanoma survivor Carrie Palmer and her kids.

Until I was diagnosed with melanoma, I never thought about how patients access the treatments for cancer. Now that I’ve been full circle, I want all Australians to be able to access new options for treatment. We must also celebrate the game-changing researchers that are helping to save lives.

I had surgery to remove my tumour and multiple lymph nodes, but even though it was successful, there was still a huge risk that the cancer would progress to Stage IV melanoma. Once the cancer reaches this stage it means it has spread to the other organs like your lungs, brain or liver.

I was hopeful I would be eligible to participate in a clinical trial to try to prevent my cancer progressing to Stage IV. My doctor quickly referred me to Professor Georgina Long, Co-Medical Director at Melanoma Institute Australia. Professor Long was helping to pave a new way for tackling cancer.

I remember feeling overwhelmed and intimidated going into my first meeting with Professor Long. I was so worried that a clinical trial would make me feel like a guinea pig. However, once she began explaining her work, it revealed a side of melanoma I had never heard about.

Immunotherapy helped Jarryd Roughead survive melanoma, and get back to doing what he does best, playing footy. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Professor Long and her colleagues are leading the world in melanoma research. Their groundbreaking work is completely transforming the way melanoma — and cancer more broadly — is diagnosed and treated worldwide. New treatments are tripling the life expectancy of some advanced melanoma patients and researchers are learning more every day about how they can be used to treat patients with other cancers.

I was put on a clinical trial for one of these new, revolutionary treatments. The medication I took was an immunotherapy, which activates my own immune system to attack and kill cancer cells. The reality is that the development of treatments, like immunotherapy, means we are moving toward melanoma no longer being a possible death sentence, but rather a treatable, chronic condition.

Access to these new treatments for melanoma in Australia is constantly evolving and growing. So many Australians have already been treated with these therapies in recent years, including AFL player Jarryd Roughead. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go on a clinical trial. Continuing to improve and accelerate this is absolutely crucial to making sure all Australians diagnosed with melanoma can access these treatments — not only those on clinical trials.

RELATED: Jarryd Roughead owes his life to immunotherapy

Professor Georgina Long and her colleagues at Melanoma Institute Australia are changing the way the world treats melanoma. Picture Cameron Richardson

However, participating in the trial has given me hope and made me feel a part of something bigger. It’s shown me that, while my own cancer journey has been challenging, I have in some way contributed to helping cancer patients all over the world. My scans will be analysed over the next ten years as Professor Long looks at the long-term outcomes of the immunotherapy I have been treated with.

Through this type of research, Professor Long believes we can achieve zero deaths from melanoma within a generation.

But I’ve realised that to achieve this goal, we all need to support our local researchers. We should strive to know more about the revolutionary, homegrown research taking place in our own backyard — and ensure access to these treatments. While melanoma is our “national cancer” with a higher incidence rate in Australia and New Zealand than anywhere else in the world, we are also leading the way in combating the disease through incredible science, research and access.

Professor Long recently received the prestigious GSK Award for Research Excellence along with her Co-Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia Professor Richard Scolyer. It comes with an $80,000 grant that will go straight into funding ongoing research — like the very study I am in. I think there should be more opportunities like this to recognise the work being done by Australian researchers.

I wish that I had known about this remarkable new research into melanoma treatment when I was first diagnosed. If we take the time to learn about, support and celebrate these amazing researchers we can give hope to the 14,000 Australians diagnosed with melanoma each year.

Community Fundraising January Wrap-Up
07 Feb 2020

Community Fundraising January Wrap-Up

Throughout January our community created, hosted and participated in some amazing events, each of them helping us on our quest to reach zero deaths from melanoma.

Kyly Clarke urges Aussies to step up to save lives from melanoma
03 Feb 2020

Kyly Clarke urges Aussies to step up to save lives from melanoma

Australian television presenter, interior designer and mother Kyly Clarke has been announced as the new Ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and its national awareness and fundraising campaign Melanoma March.

Improving support for our patients across Australia.
03 Feb 2020

Improving support for our patients across Australia.

Melanoma Institute Australia has recently partnered with three other organisations to boost support for melanoma patients and their carers across Australia.   

Boost to melanoma support in WA
31 Jan 2020

Boost to melanoma support in WA

Melanoma patients and their families across Western Australia will benefit from strengthened and expanded services with the merging of melanomaWA and Melanoma Institute Australia.

New Test to Predict Primary Melanoma Progression
21 Jan 2020

New Test to Predict Primary Melanoma Progression

Australian researchers have played a critical role in the discovery of a potential new test to predict which early stage melanoma patients are at high risk of their disease recurring and progressing.

Community Fundraising December Wrap-Up
14 Jan 2020

Community Fundraising December Wrap-Up

We are extremely grateful for our community fundraisers, who, even in this difficult time, have given up their time and effort to fundraise so we can continue to work towards our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.

Two melanoma treatments approved for PBS listing
24 Dec 2019

Two melanoma treatments approved for PBS listing

Melanoma patients are set to benefit from subsidised access to immunotherapy treatment for high risk early-stage and advanced-stage melanoma patients.    

Immunotherapy: the decade's biggest health advance
23 Dec 2019

Immunotherapy: the decade's biggest health advance

An informative article on how immunotherapy is revolutionising cancer treatment, written by Jill Margo and featured in the Australian Financial Review.  

 

Boost to Melanoma Services in the Riverina
12 Dec 2019

Boost to Melanoma Services in the Riverina

Melanoma patients and their families in the Riverina will benefit from strengthened and sustained melanoma services with the merger of the Amie St Clair Melanoma Trust and Melanoma Institute Australia.

Winner of the SunSafe Student Ambassador Program announced
11 Dec 2019

Winner of the SunSafe Student Ambassador Program announced

Belmont High School at Lake Macquarie has been announced winner of the 2019 SunSafe Student Ambassador Program video competition.

Community Fundraising November Wrap-Up
04 Dec 2019

Community Fundraising November Wrap-Up

It’s time again to say thank you to our amazing community fundraisers!

MIA & MPA Patient Information Evening videos now available
03 Dec 2019

MIA & MPA Patient Information Evening videos now available

Videos of the sessions at the recent Patient Information Evening co-hosted by Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and Melanoma Patients Australia (MPA) are now available for viewing.

MIA shines in poster session
22 Nov 2019

MIA shines in poster session

MIA is well-represented in the poster sessions at the Society for Melanoma Research 2019 Congress in the USA, with four poster presentations being given by members of our translational research lab.

MIA Co-Medical Director opens SMR Congress in USA
21 Nov 2019

MIA Co-Medical Director opens SMR Congress in USA

Professor Georgina Long has today opened the Society for Melanoma Research 2019 Congress in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Highly Cited Researchers List names MIA Co-Medical Directors
20 Nov 2019

Highly Cited Researchers List names MIA Co-Medical Directors

MIA’s Co-Medical Directors, Professor Georgina Long and Professor Richard Scolyer, have both been named Highly Cited Researchers, according to the Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers 2019 list.

MPA and MIA collaboration
07 Nov 2019

MPA and MIA collaboration

Melanoma Patients Australia (MPA) and Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) have announced a new multi-year agreement to provide enhanced support services for melanoma patients nationally.

Community Fundraising October Wrap-Up
04 Nov 2019

Community Fundraising October Wrap-Up

It is time again to say thank you to our incredible community fundraisers who are helping us get closer to our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.

Promising data for advanced melanoma patients
09 Oct 2019

Promising data for advanced melanoma patients

MIA has presented promising data regarding progression-free survival rates for advanced melanoma patients at the ESMO 2019 Congress in Barcelona.

Melanoma Information Forum
04 Oct 2019

Melanoma Information Forum

We are delighted to partner with Melanoma Patients Australia to host a Melanoma Information Forum at The Poche Centre on 6th November.

Community Fundraising September Wrap-Up
02 Oct 2019

Community Fundraising September Wrap-Up

Another month has flown by and yet again we have a host of amazing community fundraisers who generously gave up their time to help us reach our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.