Australian researchers today said they have developed a blood test for melanoma in its early stages, calling it a “world first” breakthrough that could save many lives.
The scientists, from Edith Cowan University, said the new test could help doctors detect the skin cancer before it spreads through a person’s body. “Patients who have their melanoma detected in its early stage have a five-year survival rate between 90 and 99 per cent,” lead researcher Pauline Zaenker said in a statement. She added that survival rates fell to less than 50 per cent if the cancer spread in the body.
“This is what makes this blood test so exciting as a potential screening tool because it can pick up melanoma in its very early stages when it is still treatable,” Zaenker said.
The research, published in the journal Oncotarget today, included a trial involving 105 patients with melanoma and 104 healthy people. The procedure detected early stage melanoma in 79 per cent of cases, the scientists said.
Melanoma is currently detected using a visual scan by a doctor, with areas of concern cut out surgically and biopsied.Zaenker said the new process involved identifying autoantibodies a person’s body produces in response to the cancer.
“We examined a total of 1627 different types of antibodies to identify a combination of 10 antibodies that best indicated the presence of melanoma in confirmed patients relative to healthy volunteers,” she added.