“A breakthrough that will save thousands of lives”
The world’s first blood test capable of detecting melanoma in its early stages has been developed in Australia.
Researchers at Perth’s Edith Cowan University developed the life-saving blood test, with a trial on 105 people with melanoma and 104 healthy controls, able to detect early stage melanoma in 79 per cent of cases.
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The blood test works by detecting the autoantibodies the body produces in response to the melanoma.
“The body starts producing these antibodies as soon as melanoma first develops which is how we have been able to detect the cancer in its very early stages with this blood test,” Ms Zaenker, from ECU’s Melanoma Research Group said.
“We examined a total of 1627 different types of antibodies to identify a combination of 10 antibodies that best indicated the presence of melanoma in confirmed patients relative to healthy volunteers.”
Currently the main way melanoma is detected is by a visual scan by a clinician with any areas of skin that are of concern excised and sent for a biopsy.
Ms Zaenker said the new blood test could provide doctors with a powerful new tool to detect melanoma before it spreads throughout the body.
“While clinicians do a fantastic job with the tools available, relying on biopsies alone can be problematic,” she said.
“The biopsies are quite invasive, with a minimum of 1cm by 1cm of skin excised from the patient.
“They are also costly, with previous research showing that the Australian health system spends $201 million on melanoma each year with an additional $73 million on negative biopsies.”
MRG head Professor Mel Ziman said a follow up clinical trial to validate the findings was currently being organised.
“We envision this taking about three years. If this is successful we would hope to be able to have a test ready for use in pathology clinics shortly afterwards,” she said.
Australia has the second highest rate of melanoma in the world, with 14,000 new diagnoses and almost 2000 deaths each year.