Aug 28 - Australian researchers are studying the gene mutations that cause the deadly skin cancer, melanoma, in an effort to find more effective treatments. More than 130,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed globally each year, but scientists believe if the gene mutations responsible can be identified and mapped, melanoma deaths can be reduced significantly. Rob Muir reports.
With a population that lives mainly along the coast, Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. According to government statistics approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. The deadliest of these cancers is melanoma, which is why NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, says she was delighted to announce the creation of the Australian Melanoma Genome Project SOUNDBITE: NEW SOUTH WALES HEALTH MINISTER JILLIAN SKINNER SAYING:"Australia's cancer as it's been described. The largest skin cancer killer in young people, a cancer where there hasn't really been the in-roads that have occurred in other cancers." If a melanoma is detected early enough, it can be removed with an 85% cure rate. But in some cases it returns, years later. SOUNDBITE: DIRECTOR OF MELANOMA INSTITUTE OF AUSTRALIA PROFESSOR JOHN THOMPSON SAYING:"Cells have spread form that melanoma to another part of the body, to lymph glands or even to distant sites like the liver or the lung or the brain before that tumour is cut out." Professor John Thompson of Australia's Melanoma Institute says hundreds of specimens of melanoma cancer will be studied over the next two years in the hope of finding new mutations for which targeted drugs can be developed. Preofessor Richard Scolyer will be part of the effort. SOUNDBITE: PROFESSOR RICHARD SCOLYER, ROYAL PRINCE ALFRED HOSPITAL SAYING:"And this research will identify genes that are important in causing the tumours to recur and us to be able to identify patients upfront who are at risk of their, high risk of their tumour recurring" The World Health Organization says the incidence of melanoma are on the rise not just in Australia but around the world with more than 132,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It's hoped the Australian Melanoma Genome Project will result in new, more effectives approaches to both treatement and prevention.