Hands-on approach to understanding melanoma

A melanoma education program in the Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is raising awareness of the disease and how recent advances in melanoma biology has transformed the treatment options for people with metastatic melanoma.

Almost 50% of melanoma tumours are driven by mutations in a gene called BRAF.

Under the guidance of Education Outreach Manager Pauline Charman, visitors to the Lotterywest BioDiscovery Centre are performing the very same diagnostic test being used to identify the most common of these mutations in melanoma patients.

If the BRAF mutation is detected, a patient is suitable for treatment with BRAF inhibitors, which are highly efficient and selective.

After decades of basic research we now have the first targeted therapies for melanoma.

BRAF inhibitor drugs, increase survival rates and response rates of people with metastatic melanoma from 10% on past therapies, to more than 50%. It is also possible these therapies may be effective treatment for other cancers.

Sadly, these therapies are not a cure, but Kirkbride Melanoma Centre funded researchers are now looking for new improved treatments which may be able to be used in combination with the BRAF inhibitors.

The melanoma laboratory experience includes a talk from Clinton Heal, CEO of melanomaWA and from Kirkbride Melanoma Centre staff explaining the importance of medical research and of being skin aware.

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