Hope for melanoma patients as test can now predict whether the deadliest form of skin cancer is likely to spread or return
- The test, AMBLor, measures whether key proteins have diminished in the skin
- It can predict which patients are at high or low risk of metastatic cancer
- TV news presenter Pam Royle said AMBLor was ‘remarkable’ after trialling it
Scientists have developed a test which can predict whether the deadliest skin cancer is likely to spread or return.
The test, AMBLor, provides all those diagnosed with stage one melanoma with more accurate information about their prognosis.
It could be available for widespread use in two years, saving patients’ worry and the NHS millions of pounds, the developers at Newcastle University said.
Melanoma is increasing worldwide, with the number of cases in the UK soaring by 45 per cent in ten years, according to Cancer Research figures.
Tyne Tees TV news presenter Pam Royle trialled the AMBLor test and found she was a low-risk melanoma patient
Professor Penny Lovat and Doctor Rob Ellis at Newcastle University have developed a test which can predict whether the deadliest skin cancer is likely to spread or return
There are two kinds of protein – AMBRA1 and loricrin (AMLo) – normally found in the upper layer of the skin that may be lost in patients with early-stage melanoma.
Depleted levels of both proteins are linked with high-risk of tumours, while retained levels suggest the tumours are low-risk.
The biomarkers have been validated in studies of more than 400 patients battling melanoma and their outcomes.
AMBLor is used on a biopsy of the primary tumour after its removal, to identify the patients who have low-risk cancers.
Approximately ten per cent of people with low-risk tumours develop metastatic disease – when the cancer spreads.
The test will also enable treatment at an earlier stage for those in the high-risk group.
Tyne Tees TV news presenter Pam Royle, a well-known face in the North East, was one of the first to try it out after being diagnosed with melanoma in 2016.
The test revealed she was a low-risk patient. She said: ‘It is remarkable that patients may soon be given this information.
‘Knowing that you are low risk and that your melanoma is unlikely to spread or return will remove a lot of the worry for so many people.
‘It will also free up more NHS services to look after those who are classed as high risk and who need more treatment and care.’
Chief scientist Penny Lovat, professor of cellular dermatology and oncology at Newcastle University, said: ‘As a patient, the AMBLor test tells you if you’re in the low risk category – and can offer you reassurance.
‘It could also save the NHS up to £38million a year by reducing the number of follow-up appointments for those identified as low-risk.’
Lecturer and consultant dermatologist Dr Rob Ellis, who worked on the test, said: ‘We are working with NICE to show the value of this test to the NHS and we are currently gathering evidence to present to them.
‘We expect this to take less than two years.’
The research is published in the British Journal of Dermatology.
Some 17,000 patients are diagnosed with melanoma every year in the UK alone.
The risk of melanoma increases with age, with around half of people diagnosed aged 65 and over.
Survival rates are at a record high, but many people are failing to take preventative measures to protect themselves.
A jump of melanoma cancer has been recorded in all ages, rising from the eighth most common cancer in Britain to the fifth most common cancer.
WHAT IS MELANOMA AND HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT?
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumors.
Around 15,900 new cases occur every year in the UK, with 2,285 Britons dying from the disease in 2016, according to Cancer Research UK statistics.
- Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
- Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma
- Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
- Hair color: Red heads are more at risk than others
- Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
- Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk
This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary.
The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent.
- Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy:
This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body.
- Use sunscreen and do not burn
- Avoid tanning outside and in beds
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
- Keep newborns out of the sun
- Examine your skin every month
- See your physician every year for a skin exam
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society