‘World first’ melanoma blood test


"So a blood test would help if that identification particularly at early stage melanoma, which is what is the most concerning and would be most beneficial for everybody if it was identified early".

The researchers from Australia's Edith Cowan University say their test was about 80% accurate in correctly diagnosing people with melanoma in a small, early stage trial. Out of 245 samples from patients with and without melanoma, researchers could identify people with melanoma at 79 percent accuracy, and those without it at 84 percent accuracy.

"In order for it to be valued by clinicians we would need to get to 90% accuracy in detection", she said.

Public health data from groups like the National Cancer Data Base and other data compiled by major treatment facilities like the Moffitt Cancer Center bear out those numbers.

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The problem is particularly serious in Australia, where melanomas were the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2017 and cause about 1,700 deaths a year, according to the university. While the initial blood test was trialled on 209 people, the next step is to complete a clinical trial on 1,000 participants at the time they have a biopsy for a suspicious lesion.

The new blood test method works by testing autoantibodies produced by the body to fight melanoma.

Australia has the second highest level of melanoma in the world after New Zealand, with 14,000 new diagnoses and nearly 2,000 deaths every year. The test is created to make it easier to spot the skin cancer before it becomes fatal, according to researchers.

Zaenker added, "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".

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'While clinicians do a fantastic job with the tools available, relying on biopsies alone can be problematic.

Ms Zaenker, a member of ECU's Melanoma Research Group, said the new blood test would provide another tool for doctors and would be less invasive for patients. "It's important all Australians keep a close eye on their skin and see their doctor straight away if they notice anything unusual", she said. It often starts with a change in a mole or a new growth on skin.

The test will not pick up other types of skin cancers such as squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma, researchers said.

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