Perth researchers have developed a new test that is able to detect the early stages of melanoma that could save lives.
The ground-breaking blood test by Edith Cowan University scientists detects auto-antibodies that the body produces in response to the melanoma when it first develops.
The breakthrough came after a trial of 105 people with melanoma, in which the test picked up melanoma in about 80 per cent of cases.
ECU Melanoma Research Group Head Professor Mel Ziman said it was a scientific first.
“It’s the first time that auto-antibodies are being used to diagnose melanoma so that in itself is exciting because we’ve shown we can do it,”Ms Ziman said.
“This will just add to that set of tools that clinicians have to make sure we get it as early as possible.”
Lead researcher Pauline Zaenker said it was important melanomas were detected early on.
“If it is not caught early and spreads around the body, the five-year survival rate drops to less than 50 per cent,” Ms Zaenker said.
“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.”
Australia has the second highest rate of melanoma in the world, with 14,000 new cases each year and more than 2000 deaths.
Both Australia and New Zealand also have the highest rates of skin cancer.
The Australian health system spends more than $200 million on melanomas a year, with another $73 million spent on negative biopsies.
A follow-up clinical trial is being organised to confirm the findings.