Breast cancer drug may cure melanoma

Breast cancer drug may cure melanoma

18 September 2019

Barbara Holland, pictured with her daughter,  tried everything to stop headaches for months before her doctor sent her for an MRI. Her scans showed a tumour in her sinus passages, and four tumours in her brain. In August 2015,  she was diagnosed  with mucosal melanoma.

After the tumour in her sinuses were removed, and three years of immunotherapy, one of her brain tumours is no longer measurable and the others are stable.  

Barbara is no longer on treatment and comes to MIA for three monthly scans.

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"It's amazing to know that there could soon be new treatments for this horrible disease. I think the best part about this discovery is that it gives hope,” said Barbara.

Mucosal melanoma, which occurs on the inner surfaces of the body such as the mouth, nose and anogenital region and is not linked to UV exposure, has a very poor prognosis with less than 20% of patients surviving five years after diagnosis.

Now, an Australian-led international team of researchers has discovered that a drug traditionally used to treat a type of breast cancer may hold the key to treating this aggressive and deadly form of melanoma.

The international study, led by researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and The University of Sydney as part of the Australian Melanoma Genome Project, has uncovered the diverse genetic drivers for mucosal melanoma as well asidentified potential treatments.

Lead study author Professor Richard Scolyer, Co-Medical Director Melanoma Institute Australia says the study allowed researchers to not only look for new drug targets, but to also match available targeted drugs to the specific genetic drivers in mucosal melanoma.

"We now understand the genetic drivers of mucosal melanoma, and can match those to potential treatments,” Professor Scolyer said. “The study revealed that a currently available class of drug commonly used to treat breast cancer looks promising for treating mucosal melanoma."

"The ramifications of this study are immense and are critical in us reaching our goal of zero deaths from melanoma."

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Your generous donation today will support life-saving research to help people like Barbara have access to new treatments bringing us closer to our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.

Catch up on the latest news from Melanoma Institute Australia in our Spring edition of Momentum.