Discovery motivates new cancer research into melanoma risk


Two ACRF-funded cancer research centres have worked in collaboration to discover a mutant gene that increases the risk of melanoma in approximately 200,000 Australians.

The gene, known as MITF, is known for regulating pigmentation – turning the skin brown after exposure to the sun, for example.

But cancer researchers at the Westmead Institute of Cancer Research (a 2011 ACRF grant awardee) together with the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have found that in many Australians, MITF is mutated, working abnormally to increase the risk that sunlight or other causes will cause malignant melanomas by 250%.

“This work helps to explain why some people are more vulnerable to melanoma than others,” said one of the chief investigators at Westmead, Professor Graham Mann.

“It will help to determine how often people need to be screened and how they can best protect themselves from melanoma.”

ACRF is very excited to see years of research at these two world-class cancer research centres come to fruition through this discovery.

ACRF has provided over $11 million in funds to these research institutes, with the most recent funding awarded in November 2011 to the Westmead Institute of Cancer Research. The centre was successful in their application to develop two new melanoma research laboratories in Sydney, a project which will significantly enhance progress in this vital area of cancer research.