Melanoma is the third most common cancer in both men and women in Australia, and the commonest cause of death from cancer in younger adults. It is dangerous because it is able to spread more easily than other skin cancers, however it is usually cured by surgery if detected early.
The Westmead Institute for Medical Research is world-renowned for its melanoma studies. Researchers from its Centre for Cancer Research helped discover the first mutated gene that causes a high risk of melanoma in families. More recently they have identified most of the more than 20 gene variations that influence melanoma risk in the community, together with sun exposure. The melanoma team showed in 2011 that sunbeds are an important cause of melanoma, especially in young people, and this led to bans on commercial solariums around Australia.
Research from these studies has also led to innovative screening approaches for people at highest risk of melanoma, using computer-assisted photographic monitoring. These high-risk clinics promise to be more efficient and effective in the early detection of melanoma in this challenging group of people.
Our melanoma group also helps lead a major collaboration, under the auspices of Melanoma Institute Australia, to fully map the genome of Australian melanoma tumours as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas and the International Cancer Genome Consortium. This work has led to fundamental discoveries of new markers of melanoma outcome and new targets for melanoma treatment. These studies are matched by intense translational research and clinical trials of new therapies among the melanoma patients seen at Westmead.
The work of the group is a key part of the melanoma stream under the Sydney West Translational Cancer Research Centre.