Melanoma destroys young man's future


Scott Kirkbride was only 27 years old when he lost his battle with melanoma in 2004.

Scott was a keen sportsman and had been working as the pro golfer at Cottesloe Golf Course when he was first diagnosed at 21.

Initially, Scott developed a small mole on his cheek, which was monitored during regular skin check-ups.

Over time the mole was discovered to have changed slightly and it was decided it should be excised and a biopsy performed. The biopsy proved that it was the very beginning of a melanoma.

Following the removal of the mole, Scott was given the all-clear but continued to have six-monthly skin check-ups, as he had done all his life.

There was no indication of any recurrence of the cancer until five years later when a lump appeared under the skin on his chest. He was immediately concerned about the lump and went to the GP to request it be removed, despite being told there was probably nothing to worry about.

48 hours later he was told he had secondary melanoma.

Scott was referred to a specialist to have further scans and the examinations indicated that the cancer had spread to his spine, his ribs and his lung.  

Scott’s treatment involved 6 weeks of chemotherapy, then a break and an X-ray taken to see if the treatment was having an effect. He continued this regimen for over 6 months, with little effect. His melanoma neither deteriorated, nor did it improve.

In time however, despite his ongoing treatment, Scott developed a brain tumour and his spine, where another secondary melanoma had been found, started to break down, and he had to have pins inserted.

After 18 months of chemotherapy, Scott and his family began looking for clinical trials to take part in. His family discovered a new medicine being trialled out of America and started fundraising to ensure Scott would be able to get to the treatment centre.

In December 2004, a few months before a major fundraising event that Scott’s family had planned to support his trip to the U.S., Scott succumbed to his illness.

Scott’s mother Vonnie recalls at one point during his treatment him asking, “How can my case be used to help others. I want to be able to do something.”

Following Scott’s death, driven by their son’s last wishes and with the help of Professor Peter Klinken, his family started the Kirkbride Melanoma Centre (formerly SKMRC) which aims to establish world-class resources to investigate melanoma, with the goal of pinpointing the genetic and environmental causes of the disease.  Since then the Kirkbride Centre has raised and funded over $1,650,000 worth of melanoma related research in WA, and new treatments for metastatic melanoma have finally been released on the PBS.

Australia has one of the world's highest rates of melanoma and, despite awareness programs educating people about the dangers of spending too much time in the sun, the skin cancer is becoming more prevalent, with more than 1,000 new cases diagnosed each year in WA, particularly in the 15-39 year age group.

To find out more about the Kirkbride Centre click here.

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