New hope for melanoma patients

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New biomarkers to improve skin cancer diagnosis and avoid delays in treatment are being developed by researchers at the University of South Australia.

Every 30 minutes, an Australian is diagnosed with melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Fortunately, 98 per cent can be successfully treated if the cancer is caught early, but what happens when it’s not?

Thousands of skin lesions are misdiagnosed each year, delaying treatment, and putting lives at risk, says UniSA PhD candidate Giang Lam.

“Melanomas exhibit a wide range of sizes, shapes and growth, which can resemble numerous benign and other malignant skin lesions,” Giang says.

“It can make accurate diagnosis difficult, even for expert dermatologists and pathologists. The current markers used in clinical practice to identify cancerous cells and distinguish them from normal cells are not always sensitive or specific. Melanomas are sometimes missed, and this can have fatal consequences.”

Giang, and her supervisor Dr Jessica Logan, a Research Fellow in UniSA’s Clinical and Health Sciences unit, are identifying new markers based on abnormal genetic activity in the endosomal system, which flags melanoma growth.

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