Melanoma is a form of cancer that develops in the skin’s pigment cells or melanocytes.
Melanocytes are cells that produce pigment to help protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation or sunlight. These cells can collect together in the skin to form a mole. Melanomas are formed when the melanocytes in a mole begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled and unregulated way. The cells expand outwards or down into the lower layers of the skin where it grows very quickly if left untreated.
How is it treated?
Melanoma has many treatment options available depending on the stage of the disease. The most common treatment for early stage or localised melanoma is surgery, and in the majority of cases, this is the only treatment required.
More advanced cases of melanoma where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body may require treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted molecular therapy. Immunotherapy works by modifying the actions of the immune system to attack the cancer cells. Targeted therapy is designed to specifically attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.
Please consult with your doctor for the best treatment options based on how far the melanoma has progressed together with other factors such as your age and general health.
At age 35, father of three young children, discovered he had stage four melanoma that had metastasised to his brain, lungs and abdomen. Rhys was fortunate to be accepted into a clinical trial being run by his treating clinician – also Head of the Melanoma Oncology and Immunology Program, Professor Peter Hersey. After four weeks the tumours began to shrink.
Fighting treatment resistance
This research looks at the improving the effectiveness of treatments for advance cases of melanoma.
- Immunotherapy: Developing a molecular understanding of why up to 50% of melanoma patients do not respond to immunotherapy
- Targeted therapy: Looking at new treatments opportunities to improve outcomes for patients who develop resistance to medicines
Initial research has revealed that high levels of certain genes on the X chromosome can aid the body’s immune system in helping to fight cancer. This has the potential for a new treatment opportunity for melanoma patients.
Cutting edge technology
By understanding how genetics can potentially govern all the hallmarks of cancer. We are using cutting edge techniques such as CRISPR (gene editing) and computer analysis of drug screening to identify new targets for potential treatments.
These drugs can be rapidly screened in the laboratory as we look at impact on:
- tumour growth
- resistance to therapy