Early lymph node check is saving lives in melanoma patients

Early lymph node check is saving lives in melanoma patients

19 October 2017

Research presented this week at the 9th World Congress of Melanoma supports the updated guideline recommendation that sentinel lymph node biopsy be performed in more patients newly diagnosed with melanoma, as it has the potential to save lives due to the information the procedure provides.

This biopsy, which looks for cancer cells in the lymph nodes, can identify patients whose melanoma has spread beyond the site on the skin (Stage III melanoma) and who may be suitable to receive the new generation of anti-melanoma drugs.

The recently published Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Melanoma recommends that “sentinel lymph node biopsy should be considered for all patients with melanoma greater than 1 mm in thickness and for patients with melanoma greater than 0.8 mm with other high risk pathological features to provide optimal staging and prognostic information and to maximise management options for patients who are node positive”.

“We know patients who have melanoma cells present in their draining lymph nodes (Stage III) are up to three times more likely to die from their melanoma than patients where the lymph nodes are clear,” says David Gyorki, a consultant surgeon and melanoma specialist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

“For some time, we’ve known that sentinel lymph node biopsy is an excellent way to identify those patients who have a higher risk of having their disease progress, and with the new drugs we have gained the tools to respond and to reduce this risk.

“On the horizon, we will have access to effective, well tolerated drug therapies that can reduce the risk of relapse and, using sentinel lymph node biopsy to identify appropriate patients, the data indicate that this strategy is saving lives.”

For most patients diagnosed with melanoma, their disease is localised and effectively treated with surgery; however, some patients’ disease will progress. Of the 14,000 Australians diagnosed with melanoma each year, almost 15% will die from their disease.

Findings from recent clinical trials have demonstrated a major improvement in survival for patients with Stage III melanoma using drug therapy after surgery with the aim to prevent the melanoma from appearing in distant organs (Stage IV disease).

In one such clinical trial, known as COMBI-AD, patients who received a combination of targeted therapies (dabrafenib and trametinib) decreased the chance of their melanoma progressing by 53% compared to the current standard therapy of ‘watch and wait’.

“We encourage clinicians to inform their patients about sentinel lymph node biopsy so that patients can properly understand their risk of recurrence and death from melanoma, and therefore discuss the option of further drug therapy” says Professor Georgina Long, Medical Oncologist and Co-Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia.

The 9th World Congress of Melanoma is underway in Brisbane, October 18 – 21.

Our own 'Australian Story'
30 Apr 2018

Our own 'Australian Story'

Professor Richard Scolyer highlights the difficulties of diagnosis following the Australian Story feature program on Emma Betts. 

Cancer Australia releases 'stage at diagnosis' data for top five incidence cancers – including melanoma
27 Apr 2018

Cancer Australia releases 'stage at diagnosis' data for top five incidence cancers – including melanoma

For the first time in Australia, national data has been released on cancer stage at diagnosis. This data explores the top five incidence cancers – female breast cancer, colorectal, lung, prostate cancers and melanoma.

The inspiring story of Emma Betts premieres on Australian Story
16 Apr 2018

The inspiring story of Emma Betts premieres on Australian Story

'Dear Emma' - a tribute to the life and times of a young woman determined to raise awareness about melanoma. 

Toyota helps tackle Australia's national cancer - melanoma
09 Apr 2018

Toyota helps tackle Australia's national cancer - melanoma

Carole Renouf, CEO for MIA thanks Toyota for helping fuel ongoing melanoma research.

Tackling the Kokoda Trail for melanoma
06 Apr 2018

Tackling the Kokoda Trail for melanoma

Fraser Dykes tackled the Kokoda Trail on an eight day trek in memory of his friend Mark 'Bod' Boddison.

Professor Richard Scolyer presents at world's largest annual meeting of pathologists
29 Mar 2018

Professor Richard Scolyer presents at world's largest annual meeting of pathologists

Harvard’s Clinical Professor Martin Mihm and MIA’s Conjoint Medical Director Professor Richard Scoyler delivered a series of lectures on melanoma pathology in Vancouver, British Colombia this week at the world’s biggest annual pathology meeting.

Congratulations to Kaye Oakley
29 Mar 2018

Congratulations to Kaye Oakley

A round of applause for a well deserved win.

Farewell from Carole Renouf, CEO of Melanoma Institute Australia
26 Mar 2018

Farewell from Carole Renouf, CEO of Melanoma Institute Australia

A message from our CEO, Carole Renouf

Marching in the twilight
26 Mar 2018

Marching in the twilight

Piction, Brisbane, Bahturst and Port Macquarie march to end melanoma. 

Researchers uncover treatment sequence for advanced melanoma patients
23 Mar 2018

Researchers uncover treatment sequence for advanced melanoma patients

Australian researchers have greater clarity on the best course of treatment for patients with advanced melanoma which has spread to the brain.

An unsung hero of melanoma care for nearly 30 years
22 Mar 2018

An unsung hero of melanoma care for nearly 30 years

Melanoma treatment has come a long way in recent times, and the role that nurses play caring for melanoma patients has changed dramatically too.

Sharing our research on melanoma surgery
21 Mar 2018

Sharing our research on melanoma surgery

MIA is sharing it's research with the global surgical oncology community this week at the Society of Surgical Oncology Annual Cancer Symposium.

14 Melanoma Marches down, 7 to go!
19 Mar 2018

14 Melanoma Marches down, 7 to go!

It was a massive weekend of Melanoma Marches with six Marches in: Bendigo, Canberra, Manly, Newcastle, Bunbury and Adelaide.

Melanoma March keeps marching
14 Mar 2018

Melanoma March keeps marching

Weekend two hit the ground marching with Melanoma Marches in Wollongong, Townsville, Mandurah and Western Sydney.

Melanoma March kicks off for 2018
08 Mar 2018

Melanoma March kicks off for 2018

Melanoma Institute Australia's annual fundraising initiative is all systems go!

Calls for urgent crackdown on illegal backyard solariums
07 Mar 2018

Calls for urgent crackdown on illegal backyard solariums

The reported proliferation of illegal commercial solariums is costing lives and requires urgent government intervention.

15-year-old melanoma survivor Toby Rayner will lead Mount Gambier's march against melanoma
28 Feb 2018

15-year-old melanoma survivor Toby Rayner will lead Mount Gambier's march against melanoma

15-year-old melanoma survivor Toby Rayner will lead Mount Gambier’s march against melanoma Julie-Ann Sams knows all too well that melanoma doesn’t discriminate. 

Excision margins for melanoma redefined
21 Feb 2018

Excision margins for melanoma redefined

Updated guidelines defining appropriate excision margins have been published thanks to research from MIA. 

A Pawsome Story of Hope
21 Feb 2018

A Pawsome Story of Hope

Joanne and her trusty companion Frankie spend their days spreading a message of hope in hospitals, nursing homes, even prisons. It is a long way from her darkest hour facing palliative care. This is her story of hope.

A new generation of melanoma researchers
15 Feb 2018

A new generation of melanoma researchers

Melanoma impacts more Australian teenagers and young adults than any other cancer. Dr James Wilmott, who has a young family of his own, has devoted his career to determining why these young Australians are susceptible to melanoma, and importantly, how to save them.