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Isolation and quantification of circulating melanoma cells

Are all circulating melanoma cells metastatic?

Our results show that we can detect melanoma cells in the blood of patients with melanoma. Cell positivity may not necessarily be associated with tumour progression. However; melanoma cells are detected in peripheral blood from patients at all clinical disease stages albeit in different quantities. Moreover, melanoma cells are  detected in the blood of patients from whom melanoma tumours were surgically removed several years prior to measurement.

Similar results were noted by RT-PCR and have been noted  for patients with breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Project aims

Aim 1: To assess the significance of circulating cell numbers and their phenotype, on melanoma progression.

Circulating melanoma cells are isolated from the circulation of patients so that they can be quantified and characterised. Quantification and cell analysis are measured relative to disease stage. This information can be utilised along with other clinical measures for patient monitoring after diagnosis, and will provide a wealth of information that will assist with earlier evaluation of patients requiring adjuvant therapies.

Aim 2: Circulating Melanoma Cells to assess Treatment Efficacy

Isolation and characterisation of circulating melanoma cells from patient peripheral blood will be utilised to assist with prognosis, patient follow-up and assessment of the efficacy of adjuvant treatments. This research is aimed at monitoring the effect of treatments including BRAF inhibitors on circulating melanoma cell numbers and phenotypes.. This research will provide important prognostic information that can substantially assist with patient treatment and followup.

This research is funded by the NHMRC and the Cancer and Palliative Care Research and Evaluation Unit.


Professor Mel Ziman
Dr Elin Gray
Cancer Council of Clinic Cancer Research, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, Professor Michael Millward
Perth Melanoma Clinic, Associate Professor Robert Pearce
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and St John of God Specialist Centre, Mr Mark Lee
Mr James Freeman
Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Dr Amanda Ireland
Ms Pauline Zaenker
Ms Cindy Jackson
Ms Dragana Klinac
Ms Tammy Esmaili

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