Image: A human malignant melanoma cell viewed through a fluorescent, laser-scanning confocal microscope. Invasive structures involved in metastasis appear as greenish-yellow dots, while actin (green) and vinculin (red) are components of the cell’s cytoskeleton (Photo courtesy of Vira V. Artym, PhD, PMP).
Melanoma, also known as malignant melanoma, is a type of cancer that develops from the pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes. Melanomas typically occur in the skin but may rarely occur in the mouth, intestines, or eye.
Melanoma is an aggressive cancer and once it has spread through the body, average survival is six to nine months, with less than 40% of patients surviving five years. New Zealand and Australia have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. More than 2,400 New Zealanders a year are diagnosed with melanoma and around 350 New Zealanders die from it every year.
Scientists at the Edith Cowan University (ECU, Perth, Australia) have developed blood-based biomarkers for early diagnosis, prognosis and personalization of treatment in melanoma. Through the implementation of cutting-edge technologies and next generation sequencing the team scrutinized novel biomarkers such as Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) and Circulating Tumor DNA (ctDNA). In addition, they expanded the study of miRNA, exosomes and autoantibodies for improved specificity and sensitivity. The technologies are now being expanded to include prostate, breast and lung cancers. The team is also monitoring the DNA of patients who finish treatment to see if they remain disease-free.
Mel Ziman, PhD, associate dean and head of the ECU Melanoma Research Group, said, “At the moment, suspicious lesions are biopsied and examined by a pathologist. In some cases diagnosis is difficult and not always certain, particularly with very early melanomas and those without color. We’ve identified several auto antibodies that are produced by the body in response to melanoma and have developed a one-step blood test that will search for any one of these identifiers, which provides rapid, diagnostic certainty.” The study was presented a meeting titled “Melanoma research and therapy in New Zealand: raising the bar through collaborative action” held on September 9, 2017, in Queenstown, New Zealand and organized by Melanoma New Zealand.
Edith Cowan University