Melanoma Genome Project will map out future for skin cancer cures

Melanoma cancer researchNSW Minister for Health and Medical Research, the Hon. Jillian Skinner has today officially launched the Australian Melanoma Genome Project, an ambitious cancer research program that aims to identify the common gene mutations that lead to melanoma.

The $5.5 million project could take 2-5 years and is being undertaken by a research coalition of teams from the Melanoma Institute Australia, the University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW Health Pathology and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

More than 500 melanoma tumour samples will be screened and analysed in order to determine common genetic characteristics for this most deadly and prevalent type of cancer. Continue reading “Melanoma Genome Project will map out future for skin cancer cures”

Research news: winter 2012 edition

In the Winter edition of the Research Review:

  • June 2012 Research Review‘Breast cancer’ has been reclassified into approximately ten separate diseases after a landmark UK study.
  • A US trial for a new HER-2 positive breast cancer treatment, or medical ‘smart-bomb’, is shown to extend life expectancy with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.
  • Brain tumours in nine out of ten patients with metastisised melanoma have shrunk in a clinical trial run by Westmead Millennium Institute for Cancer Research.

New drug could boost brain cancer survival

Melanoma discovery at Westmead Institute for Cancer ResearchAustralian researchers have reported promising results from a new drug which could help prolong the life of people diagnosed with one of the most deadly forms of brain cancer.

Until now, patients with advanced melanoma that has spread to the brain have received a dire diagnosis. They survive only for an average of four months.

But cancer researchers at the University of Sydney, Melanoma Institute Australia, Sydney’s Westmead Hospital and the ACRF-funded Westmead Millennium Institute, have for the first time found a drug which shrinks brain tumours in these patients with advanced melanoma.

Dr Georgina Long of the University of Sydney said the drug, called Dabrafenib, works by targeting a gene mutation found in many melanoma cancers. The drug works by causing the cell to stop multiplying and in many cases it shrinks and disappears. Continue reading “New drug could boost brain cancer survival”

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%. Continue reading “Discovery motivates new cancer research into melanoma risk”