News for one of the most deadly cancers
9 October 2013
Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for people under the age of 45 years. Even though it only represents 2 percent of all skin cancers, it is responsible for almost 80 percent of skin cancer related deaths.
At a free talk on Wednesday October 9 two leading researchers from the University of Sydney will provide insights into breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of the disease that one in 20 people in Australia will develop.
Graham Mann of the Westmead Millennium Institute and Georgina Long of the Melanoma Institute Australia will present the latest on why studies of the genetics of melanoma are radically changing how it is diagnosed and managed.
Professor Mann led a team that discovered that about 200,000 Australians carry a mutant gene that increases their melanoma risk.
He says there are 25,000 human genes and many of them play a role in the risk of cancer developing.
"Variations in the genes we inherit can cause them to work abnormally and increase the chance that sunlight and other environmental causes will lead to a malignancy," said Professor Mann.
"This is shown by the way that different people's melanomas have different patterns of gene mutation. Each melanoma is different as well, with its own profile of gene damage. Some profiles are more dangerous than others.
"We are working on ways to test for all the mutations that predict good and bad tumour behaviour, and to bring these tests into better treatment options for patients.
"This is also the research that feeds into the development of drugs designed to target these mutations," he said.
Dr Long's work focusses on investigating drugs that can stop mutations in melanomas as well as the potential to harness the immune system to fight tumours.
"Identification of genetic mutations in melanoma has already lead to the development of new targeted drugs that dramatically shrink melanoma tumours in patients," said Dr Long.
"By using new combinations of drugs we are seeing further improvements in people with advanced melanoma, and hopefully, a cure in some patients.
"These drug combinations are still only being used in clinical trials but may become available for widespread use soon.
"We are also very excited about starting to use new compounds to treat early stage melanoma for the first time in clinical trials," she said.
These breakthroughs though do not spell the end of the mantra: slip, slop and slap, seek, and slide.
"We still have a very, very long way to go in regard to melanoma research," said Professor Mann.
"But we are increasingly able to offer new hope," he said.
It is presented in conjunction with Sydney Ideas, Melanoma Institute Australia and the Westmead Millennium Institute.
What: Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer. Speakers include Professor Graham Mann, Westmead Millennium Institute,Dr Georgina Long, Melanoma Institute Australia
When: 6pm-7.30pm, Wednesday 9 October
Where: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Level 10, 201 Sussex Street, Sydney
Event contact: Tina Burge 02 9114 1309,0422 915 112, firstname.lastname@example.org
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