Patients paying it forward

Patients paying it forward

19 July 2021

We often acknowledge the incredible researchers, clinicians and nurses who save lives and push our understanding of melanoma further than we’ve ever been before. It is also important to acknowledge the fundamental role our patients play in these discoveries.

Every day, patients who attend Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and our partner organisations donate something incredibly special to our research: their tissue samples and clinical records. Without these generous donations to our Biospecimen Bank and Melanoma Research Database, we simply couldn’t do the ground-breaking research that we’re doing.

So all our patients deserve a heartfelt thank you for helping to make a difference to the lives of future melanoma patients.   

Although there have been countless research projects that our patients have contributed to over the years, we wanted to showcase some recently published research to demonstrate how these precious donations are helping us find better treatments for future melanoma patients.

Immunotherapies (like nivolumab, ipilimumab and pembrolizumab) have significantly improved the survival of patients with advanced melanoma in recent years. However, around half of patients do not respond to these treatments. Our researchers wanted to find out why this happens, and which patients fit into this group.  

Why do some patients not respond to immunotherapy?

Our researchers trawled through our records to select patients whose advanced melanoma progressed despite being treated with immunotherapy. Once identified, they utilised the patients’ corresponding tumour samples in our Biospecimen Bank to underpin further research.

The researchers looked closely at the clinical, genetic and immune profiles and found two distinct groups of patients: those who progressed and those who rapidly progressed.

They found that in patients whose disease spread more rapidly than the other group, their tumours had fewer immune cells surrounding the tumour (termed ‘cold’ tumours) compared to those with a lot of immune activity (termed ‘hot’ tumours). These patients who rapidly progress also tended to have more genetic mutations (specifically BRAF mutations) compared to the other group.

Their findings, recently published in the journal Cancers, ultimately give greater clarity to the distinct mechanisms involved in the development of resistance to melanoma treatments in different patient groups and the need to develop a more personalised approach to therapy.

Can we predict which patients will respond to immunotherapy?

As not all melanoma patients will respond to immunotherapy, being able to identify the most appropriate drug for each patient before commencing treatment is of great benefit. By understanding the subtle variations between patients at the cellular level, we can start to personalise medicine for each patient.

In a study recently published in Frontiers in Immunology and using patient data from MIA and two other Australian melanoma centres, researchers identified characteristics of the immune cells that align with patients responding more favourably to immunotherapy treatment.

“Given how complex the immune response is to tumour cells, it is not surprising that no single biomarker can predict if a patient will respond to treatment,” said Professor Richard Scolyer AO, study author and Co-Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia. “However, if we pull together all the different factors involved and how they affect response to treatment, we can potentially develop a model or algorithm to find which patients are most suited to which treatment.”

Supporting research

In addition to donating tissue samples and their clinic records for our research, our patients and the community also help progress our research by supporting it financially. Donations supplement the limited and highly competitive research grants we receive from the Government. One such example is Associate Professor Alex Menzies who was involved in both of the research studies mentioned above, and whose work is supported by Nicholas and Helen Moore, as well as our community donors.

So, a huge thank you from all of us at MIA to our patients, their families and all our donors for being such an important part of our research and making lives better for future melanoma patients.

 

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Durante - Melanoma Institute Australia - Ph 0412 798 990 Email: jennifer.durante@melanoma.org.au

Australasian Melanoma Conference AMC2021
19 Nov - 20 Nov 2021

Australasian Melanoma Conference AMC2021

The 2021 Australasian Melanoma Conference (AMC2021) will held in Sydney, Australia.

Melanoma March physical events in 2022
22 Oct 2021

Melanoma March physical events in 2022

We are excited to announce a return to our much-loved physical Melanoma March events in March 2022! 

Tags: melanoma
Australian researchers spearhead paradigm shift in melanoma treatment
20 Sep 2021

Australian researchers spearhead paradigm shift in melanoma treatment

Drug therapy set to become standard treatment in high-risk early stage patients to stop disease spread

Tags: melanoma
Melanoma Bike Bash 2021: What a ride!
20 Sep 2021

Melanoma Bike Bash 2021: What a ride!

Over two fun, yet challenging, days in September an intrepid group of riders and crew successfully completed the annual Melanoma Bike Bash in WA!

Tags: melanoma
Prof Georgina Long AO awarded inaugural Outstanding Female Researcher Medal from AAHMS
16 Sep 2021

Prof Georgina Long AO awarded inaugural Outstanding Female Researcher Medal from AAHMS

Prof Long AO has been recognised by Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences for her transformative work advancing melanoma treatments.

Tags: melanoma
MIA researchers awarded $7.2m in NHMRC grants for health research
15 Sep 2021

MIA researchers awarded $7.2m in NHMRC grants for health research

Three MIA researchers at University of Sydney received grants to further their important melanoma research.

Tags: melanoma
Amie St Clair Ball in Wagga postponed for a third time
06 Sep 2021

Amie St Clair Ball in Wagga postponed for a third time

COVID restrictions continue to impact fundraising for melanoma services in Riverina.

Honouring Ben's life by supporting the next generation of melanoma researchers
30 Aug 2021

Honouring Ben's life by supporting the next generation of melanoma researchers

Ben Garrow lost his life to melanoma. In his honour his family has established a scholarship to support a PhD student whose work focuses on saving lives from melanoma.

MIA's annual Research Retreat 2021
20 Aug 2021

MIA's annual Research Retreat 2021

More than 150 clinicians, researchers and MIA staff gathered online to share research highlights.

Understanding the needs of Stage III melanoma patients when choosing treatments.
28 Jul 2021

Understanding the needs of Stage III melanoma patients when choosing treatments.

Independent researchers at The University of Sydney are seeking patient feedback.

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Apr-June 2021
21 Jul 2021

Community Fundraising Wrap Up Apr-June 2021

A re-cap of the wonderful, and often very creative, community fundraising initiatives over the April to June quarter.

Tags: melanoma
Patients paying it forward
19 Jul 2021

Patients paying it forward

Our patients who donate their tissue samples and records to our research are helping to make a difference to the lives of future melanoma patients. 

Tags: melanoma
Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients
15 Jul 2021

Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients

MIA researchers have recently been awarded two competitive funding grants, which will help facilitate their ground-breaking work in melanoma research.

Tags: melanoma
Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball
25 Jun 2022

Amie St Clair 10th Annual Ball

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Amie St Clair Melanoma at the Annual Ball in Wagga Wagga!   

Riverina Melanoma Ride
31 Mar - 07 Apr 2022

Riverina Melanoma Ride

Postponed to early 2022. Melanoma survivor Matt Kean is doing a 1000km bike ride around the Riverina to increase awareness of melanoma and raise funds for Amie St Clair Melanoma - MIA. There are many ways you can be part of this life-changing ride!

Melanoma Clinical Trial opens in Wagga
23 Jun 2021

Melanoma Clinical Trial to open in Wagga

Riverina patients gain access to potentially life saving immunotherapy treatment close to home.

Tags: melanoma
Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer
13 Jun 2021

 Queen's Birthday Honour for Professor Richard Scolyer

MIA's Prof Scolyer has been appointed as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia. 

Tags: melanoma
Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting
07 Jun 2021

Sharing our research on the global stage at 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting

Research from MIA was once again in the spotlight as findings were shared at the virtual ASCO21. 

Tags: melanoma
Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment
03 Jun 2021

Australian researchers lead world in successful trial of new cancer treatment.

In a breakthrough which could extend to the treatment of other cancers, a new immune checkpoint inhibitor has proven effective in helping save the lives of advanced melanoma patients.

Tags: melanoma
Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.
28 May 2021

Thank you doesn't seem enough for our melanoma nurses.

Whilst our research and clinical teams are trialling new treatments to save lives, it is our nurses who are on the front line providing care and support.

Tags: melanoma