The ECU Melanoma Research Group’s primary focus is to develop a simple blood test to detect circulating metastatic melanoma cells. Early identification of disease and disease spread will allow medical specialists to recommend an appropriate course of treatment at an early stage, thus improving the likelihood of treatment success. Local and international clinicians working closely with ECU researchers are enthusiastic about the research stating that “the blood test developed by ECU researchers will revolutionise the way melanoma patients are treated”.
To develop the blood test, it is required to identify a group of genetic markers that are expressed in the blood of patients with melanoma, and not in the blood of healthy volunteers. Due to differences in gene expression in many melanoma cells and between patients, several markers are necessary for the accurate detection of melanoma cells in the blood.
Several state-of-the-art biochemical and molecular tools are being used to hunt for new genes which can help to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms causing cancer spread. Further research is aimed at defining the most accurate set of markers for a diagnostic and prognostic blood test.