Melanoma landmark study to develop personalised cancer treatment

Melanoma landmark study to help further develop personalised cancer treatment

26 August 2015

A leading team of scientists and doctors, working on several different continents have joined forces to discover the most deadly form of skin cancer – cutaneous melanoma – has four distinct subtypes. 

Researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) played a major role in the global study, which it is hoped will lead to improved treatment known as ‘personalised medicine’ for advanced melanoma patients. Ninety-eight Australian patients contributed their DNA to the research. 

MIA’s Research Director and Co-Director, Professors Graham Mann and Richard Scolyer, both played integral roles in the five year study, working on the analysis of samples from 331 patients from around the world. They also helped write and develop a paper which involved over 300 researchers from countries including the United States, Germany and Canada who contribute to ‘The Cancer Genome Atlas’ (TCGA) project. 

Scientists are confident the discovery will lead them to being able to develop more precise and better targeted cancer treatment in the future.

Commenting on the results, MIA Research Director, Professor Graham Mann said: “This is a fantastic global effort and it’s wonderful to see that MIA patients here in Australia, have played such a significant role in helping us conduct this landmark study. We are very grateful to them.

“The results provide us with a framework so we can classify this disease in an extremely detailed way. We can then make more focused decisions on both targeted and immunotherapy treatments, ultimately giving our patients the best possible chance of beating advanced melanoma.”

The discovery of the subtypes, which are defined by the presence or absence of signature mutations on the genes, will not only help doctors develop more personalised care, they could also help researchers create predictive models to guide patient care. 

The TCGA project overall was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and National Human Genome Research Institute, with MIA’s contribution supported by funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council. MIA clinicians, patients and donors continue to work together to establish and grow MIA’s tumour bank and database, which made this milestone in melanoma research possible. 

 Read the full story here. 

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