Australian scientists have created a breakthrough blood test to detect melanoma

Experimental blood test could detect melanoma skin cancer early, study finds

Scientists in Australia have developed a world-first blood test to detect skin cancer before it spreads through the body.

The test could speed up the diagnosis process, saving thousands of lives.

Developed by scientists at Edith Cowan University, the test picks up melanoma by recognising auto-antibodies produced by the body to combat the cancer's early growth.

In a trial involving about 200 people - half of whom had the cancer - the test was successful in 81.5% of cases.

There's good news. If caught early, the survival rate for melanoma climbs to 95 percent.

Melanoma, which are typically caused by exposure to the sun, can, if undetected, spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver and brain.

The next step, the researchers said, will be to take MelDX to clinical trial, which is now being organised, and which could help refine the test.

It works by detecting auto-antibodies which our body produces when melanoma first develops.

Melanoma is now detected using a visual scan by a doctor, with areas of concern cut out surgically and biopsied.

"This is what makes this blood test so exciting as a potential screening tool because it can pick up melanoma in its very early stages when it is still treatable", says Pauline Zaenker, lead researcher and PhD candidate.

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One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer, according to the World Health Organisation, with Australia having among the highest incidences of melanoma in the world.

"While clinicians do a fantastic job with the tools available, relying on biopsies alone can be problematic".

"The biopsies are quite invasive".

The breakthrough could potentially save millions of lives and significantly reduce costs to the healthcare system.

"We examined a total of 1,627 different types of antibodies to identify a combination of 10 antibodies that best indicated the presence of melanoma in confirmed patients relative to healthy volunteers", Zaenker said.

Trialled on 124 patients, the test helped detect the disease in 70 percent of cases.

"We envision this taking about three years".

While specialists are well-trained to spot melanoma, Prof Mel Ziman, head of the research team, said the blood test could hasten diagnosis.

That's not a flawless result, but it does provide a starting point before other, more invasive tests are embarked on; in conjunction with current diagnostic techniques, it could improve early diagnosis - and therefore people's chance of survival.

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