Melanoma research reaches a milestone

Melanoma research reaches a milestone

21 March 2017

Melanoma research has reached a milestone with the 10,000th patient giving their permission for their blood and tissue samples to be used in the world’s largest melanoma biospecimen bank. 

Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) has been collecting samples from melanoma patients since 1999 and now has an incredible resource that is powering melanoma research here and around the globe. Together with patient records, the samples add enormous value to the clinical stories of our patients and drive discovery and translational research that will, in turn, provide answers to the clinical questions plaguing our doctors.

“When a patient first presents to MIA, we don't have the crystal ball to predict what their journey is going to be like,” says Biospecimen Bank Manager, Valerie Jakrot (pictured). “We now know that melanoma is not just one disease, and so we must look at the molecular level to understand the differences between each type.”

Because of the large number of samples collected, MIA and collaborators from around the world have access to a wide variety of different types of melanoma, including some of the rarer forms, growing our understanding of the disease. In addition, a large number of samples are needed to test and confirm hypotheses in research, and so the Biospecimen Bank’s magnitude is invaluable.

Personalised medicine

By using the samples to identify which genes drive the disease, researchers will gain a better understanding to improve patient outcomes. This is the basis of personalised medicine.

“By finding out which genes are involved in causing a patient’s melanoma, we will be able to better predict the course of the disease and identify which treatment will be most effective for the patient,” says Valerie. “This knowledge will change the management of patients from the very beginning, ensuring the best possible outcome is reached.”

Collaborations

Biospecimen Bank samples have also been used in a number of key research projects, including the Australian Melanoma Genome Project, which is mapping the entire genome of 500 melanomas. Our samples have contributed significantly to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a five year study of tumours from over 300 patients around the world. In addition, data has been made available to the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), which is seeking to understand the genetic causes of 50 different cancer types.

Contributions making a difference

As the largest collection of melanoma blood and tissue samples in the world, the Biospecimen Bank would not have been established without significant resources from MIA. Being a specialised treatment centre, MIA has access to a large number of patients who generously consent to being part of this endeavour. Without the support of our patients, and donors who see the long-term potential of this project, the Biospecimen Bank simply wouldn’t exist.

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