Wildfire Award helps ignite new melanoma research

Wildfire Award helps ignite new melanoma research

8 September 2016

Dr James Wilmott says his Wildfire Award from the Cancer Institute NSW will help expand research into treatment options for people with mucosal melanoma, a rare but deadly form of skin cancer.

Part of the team at Melanoma Institute Australia, Dr Wilmott was recognised at the Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research for the global success of a recent publication leading to improvements in melanoma treatment.

“The result of winning an award like this is that we have some seed funding to start on a new project that aims to identify new drug targets for people with mucosal melanoma,” Dr Wilmott says.

The Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in cancer research, recognising and supporting researchers who are making a difference to the lives of people with cancer.

Talking about his new research, Dr Wilmott says mucosal melanomas are different from other melanomas – they don’t occur in sun-exposed skin, they aren’t related to UV exposure, and there are currently no known risk factors.

“It’s a type of cancer where we don’t know a lot about the genomic alterations that drive the growth and survival.”

Mucosal surfaces of the body include the lining of the sinuses, nasal passages and oral cavity.

Dr Wilmott hopes that through this research new treatments could be developed for people living with the disease.

“We have discovered some major differences in the types of genomic alterations that are present in melanoma that arises in sun-exposed sites compared to the sun-shielded sites, like mucosal and acral surfaces.”

“We hope the data from this study will be released in the near future by one of the top medical journals.”

While mucosal melanomas are expected to only make up 1 per cent of all melanomas, mucosal and acral melanomas (arising on soles of hands and feet) make up the majority of melanomas in Asian populations.

The rarity of genomic data and lack of known treatable genomic drivers means treatment in advanced stages of disease is difficult.

Giving melanoma treatment to the world

Dr Wilmott and his team at Melanoma Institute Australia are already responsible for changing the lives of people with melanoma, though.

Their win at the 2016 Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research came for the paper ‘Immunohistochemistry is highly sensitive and specific for the detection of V600E BRAF mutation in melanoma.’

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It’s a paper that has changed the way people are able to be treated for melanoma, enabling accelerated mutations testing of melanoma patients, and giving fast access to potentially life-saving treatments.

For more on Dr James Wilmott’s award-winning research, see the full story from the Cancer Institute NSW.