Australian researchers on Wednesday they have developed a blood test for melanoma in its early stages, calling it a 'world first' breakthrough that could save many lives. The test is designed to make it easier to spot the skin cancer before it becomes fatal, according to researchers. They also said that the blood test could provide more accurate results than the human eye and save many lives.
Developed by scientists at Edith Cowan University, the tests pick up melanoma by recognising auto-antibodies produced by the body to combat the cancer's early growth. Early trials of test involving 209 people - half of whom had the cancer - showed it was capable of picking up early stage melanoma in 81.5% of cases. It will now undergo clinical trials, to take place within three years, in a bid to improve its accuracy to 90%. Researchers hope it could be approved for use within five years.
Professor Mel Ziman, head of the Melanoma Research Group at the university said, "It's critical that melanoma is diagnosed more accurately and early. So a blood test would help if that identification particularly at early stage melanoma, which is what is the most concerning and would be most beneficial for everybody if it was identified early." The test could also benefit people living in rural areas where it's hard to get a dermatologist.
Melanoma accounts for the most skin cancer-related deaths, according to the World Health Organisation. It is the fourth most common cancer in Australia and claims the lives of about 1500 people each year. About 14,000 cases were diagnosed in 2017. The blood test has been cautiously welcomed by health experts. The Cancer Council Australia chief executive, Sanchia Aranda said that Australians needed to keep a check on their skin. "It's important all Australians keep a close eye on their skin and see their doctor straight away if they notice anything unusual," she said.