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Professor Penny Lovat, who has worked on a new skin cancer tool
Professor Penny Lovat, who has worked on a new skin cancer tool
Image: (Newcastle University/PA)

New test reliably predicts spread or return of melanoma

Scientists have developed the new tool after making a breakthrough in understanding how skin cancers grow.
Jan 14th 2022, 11:10 AM 16,910 5

SCIENTISTS HAVE DEVELOPED a test which reliably predicts the spread or return of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

The technological advance came as they made a breakthrough in understanding the mechanism of skin cancer growth.

Professor Penny Lovat, of Newcastle University, led the work on developing the test which will give reassurance to patients diagnosed with an early stage melanoma.

The test, known as AMBLor, is applied to a standard biopsy of the primary melanoma when it is removed and will identify patients who are at a low risk of cancer reoccurring or spreading.

Professor Lovat said: “Our test offers a personalised prognosis as it more accurately predicts if your skin cancer is unlikely to spread.”

“This test will aid clinicians to identify genuinely low risk patients diagnosed with an early stage melanoma and to reduce the number of follow-up appointments for those identified as low risk, saving the NHS time and money.”

The British Skin Foundation supported the research, which was done in association with the university spin-out firm Amlo Biosciences.

The foundation’s chief operating officer, Phil Brady, said: “The development of the AMBLor test can alleviate stress and anxiety for patients caused by this potentially deadly skin cancer, whilst increasing efficiency and reducing costs to the NHS.”

The test identifies a patient’s true risk of disease progression and provides anyone diagnosed with a non-ulcerated early stage melanoma – accounting for around 75% of all new diagnoses – more accurate information about the risk of the disease spreading.

The scientists have published their findings on the mechanism of how the skin works – which underpins the test – in the British Journal of Dermatology. 

There are approximately 1,100 people diagnosed with melanoma every year in Ireland, resulting in 160 deaths.

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer due to its ability to spread to other organs in the body. 

It is less common than other forms of skin cancer however, but is still ranked as the fourth most common form of cancer in Ireland when other skin cancers are excluded.

More than a quarter of skin cancer cases are diagnosed in people under 50, which is unusually early compared to most other types of cancer.

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Over recent years, skin cancer has become much more common in Ireland. This is thought to be the result of increased exposure to intense sunlight while on holiday abroad, according to the HSE.

The team who developed the AMBLor have made an application for the test to be made available on the NHS.

The Irish Cancer Association has welcomed the new research, hoping that it will aid in  identifying new diagnostic markers for melanoma. 

 “We hope additional real world studies in the coming years will find that this research is beneficial in helping patients make decisions as to their best options for care,” a spokesperson said.

“Many forms of skin cancer are potentially avoidable by not using sunbeds, reducing our overexposure to sunlight, for example in our work life and when out and about doing daily activities and on holiday and this is important as rates of skin cancers in our community continue to rise.”  

Their free supports are also available  through cancer.ie or their Freephone Support Line 1800 200 700.

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