Toddler's melanoma diagnosis a shock

A Community Breakfast forum organised by the SKMRC and melanomaWA, in conjunction with a national Melanoma conference, had a very small but important guest in the audience this morning. (Saturday 11 October.) 

Frankie Prebble
Frankie Prebble

Two year old Frankie Prebble, who attended with Mum Michelle and Dad Matt, had surgery for a melanoma on her arm in April this year and has recovered.

Michelle Prebble said the toddler had never been sunburnt. “It was such a shock when Frankie was diagnosed with melanoma,” she said.

“I’d seen a small pink dot on her arm but it was a while before it was confirmed to be something so serious. She’d never been sunburned. I’m very careful with sun protection as we all have fair skin.”

Michelle and husband Matt said it was important that research continued into melanoma, which often affects young people.

“Matt and I totally support all cancer research, in fact, he is riding in the Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer next weekend, as a result of what our family has been through,” Michelle said.

The breakfast forum was attended by about 100 people and gave melanoma patients and their families the opportunity to speak to the experts about their own experiences with the cancer and to ask questions about treatments.

Exciting time for new melanoma drugs

The breakfast was a community event within a two day SKMRC-organised National Melanoma Conference, which has attracted melanoma researchers and clinicians from overseas as well as the Eastern States.

One of the United States visitors, Meehard Herlyn said melanoma research was finally making breakthroughs, with six new drugs for the deadly skin cancer being approved for use in patients.

Professor Herlyn, from the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, said that it was an exciting time for melanoma care.

“For over 20 years, no new drugs were approved for use in patients with metastatic melanoma. Four have been approved in the past three years and another two are in the pipeline during the next six months,” Professor Herlyn said.

“They are all effective in shrinking tumours.”

Professor Herlyn said that melanoma was difficult to treat because there were up to 5000 mutations per tumour.

“Melanomas have more genetic aberrations than any other human malignancy,” he said. “That’s why so many individual therapy strategies are needed.”

“For example, if you give a BRAF inhibitor to the wrong tumour, it will actually increase its growth.” Professor Herlyn also talked about the importance of eliminating all melanoma cells using combination drug therapies.

“If you leave any, the tumour will come back in 7 or 8 months,” he said.

Despite this tendency to relapse, Professor Herlyn said the fact that he was talking about therapy resistance in melanoma was positive within itself.

“30 years ago, we couldn’t have talked about this because every melanoma was resistant to therapy.”

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