New trial giving options

New trial giving options

18 July 2016

Melanoma Institute Australia is opening a new clinical trial that is giving hope to patients who have no other options available to them.

Although melanoma research has come a long way with the recent development of targeted therapies and immunotherapies, there are still a group of patients with advanced melanoma who do not respond to these treatments and have no other options available to them.

Our researchers and doctors have developed a unique clinical trial that will use existing drugs to target rare genes in melanoma patients. They will not have to wait years for drug development as these therapies are already available and in use for other cancers.

The Match Mel Trial will test patients for abnormal changes (called mutations) in the genes which may contribute to the growth and spread of their particular melanoma. Our researchers will then match these mutated genes with existing drugs that specifically target the faulty gene to prevent the spread of melanoma.

Using early-stage research, we anticipate that some of the drugs, already available on the market, can be repurposed to work on some melanoma mutations. However, because these drugs have not been used specifically in the melanoma setting before, close monitoring and support is required for patients in this innovative trial.

The addition of a specialised melanoma Clinical Nurse Consultant to the trial team will ensure our patients receive the highest quality care, and are monitored closely and regularly. In this trial setting, having someone to coordinate their care who is accessible 24/7 and understands treatments, how they work, and how to manage their physical and psychological side-effects is key for an advanced melanoma patient.

We recently asked for the community's support to help us to raise the funds needed to recruit, appoint and equip the right person in this position.

Thanks to the generosity of the community, we are pleased to announced that we have raised the $240,000 to cover the costs for a Clinical Nurse Consultant for three years!

This promising research is ushering in an exciting new era of personalised medicine that will potentially revolutionise the way melanoma is treated – thank you for being a part of it!

 Below is the story of advanced melanoma patient, Emma Betts, who kindly shared her story for our appeal. 

Emma's Story

Emma Betts was diagnosed with advanced melanoma at only 22. Her popular blog, Dear Melanoma, documents her personal account of living with a terminal diagnosis at a young age. Given only three months to live, Emma was determined not to give up and joined a clinical trial of the immunotherapy PD-1 drug, Keytruda.

This trial gave Emma the precious gift of time that she did not expect. She recently celebrated her second wedding anniversary with her husband, Serge.

“Two years ago our biggest fear was that I would not be alive for our wedding. In many ways our wedding was bittersweet – many people came expecting it would be the last time they would see me,” Emma recalls. “But here we are celebrating our second anniversary!”

However, today Emma is no longer responding to treatment and questions about her future are weighing heavily on her.

“I find myself almost grovelling to my oncologist for more options,” she says. “There is a new desperation. I have turned into a person chasing a miracle. I am scared of being this person because I know I don’t have many options left.”

Thanks to melanoma research, I have been given two years with my husband, family and friends that I didn’t think I’d ever have. I was given the opportunity to make more memories: marry my husband, become an aunt, buy our own home, bring our own fur-baby home and travel the world.

But the treatment options available to me are running out.

I need more options. I deserve more options.

My biggest fear is that I will spend my last however long being angry at the world.

I don’t want to be asking ‘why me?’. Why was I diagnosed with terminal cancer at 22? Why can’t I have the opportunity to grow old with my husband? Why can’t I have the family I have always dreamed of?

If I could just be given a bit more time, I would be very happy with that.

~ Emma Betts

Donations to support this project are still welcome. Thank you in advance for your support.