Skin cancer breakthrough: UK team create revolutionary test to predict disease spread

Cancer patient says it took 10 hours to get home from hospital

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It has been developed by British scientists and will offer reassurance for patients diagnosed with early-stage melanoma. Melanoma is increasing worldwide and every year more than 16,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the cancer. This groundbreaking test was developed following a scientific breakthrough by the team in understanding the mechanism of skin cancer growth.

Newcastle University Professor Penny Lovat led the project in conjunction with the University’s spin-out company AMLo Biosciences.

Their test, dubbed MBLor, can be applied to a standard biopsy of the primary melanoma on its removal.

Then it is able to identify patients who are at low risk of the disease reoccurring or spreading.

Their study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, explains how early-stage melanomas at risk of spreading secrete a growth factor, TGFβ2 which causes the reduction, or down-regulation, of the proteins AMBRA1 and Loricrin.

Senior author Prof. Lovat said: “Like mortar and bricks holding together a wall, AMBRA1, Loricrin and Claudin 1 are all proteins key to maintaining the integrity of the upper layer of the skin.

“When these proteins are lost gaps develop – like the mortar crumbling away in the wall. This allows the tumour to spread and ultimately ulcerate which we know is a process associated with higher risk tumours.

“Our new understanding of this biological mechanism underpins the test we have available.”

Cory Inglish, 49, is the first patient to have used the new test,

He said: “When you sit down with a dermatologist after the initial excision, you hear that it wasn’t a mole, it was a melanoma.

“You are in a state of fear. It’s overwhelming. At that moment a lot of the information that is provided is in very impenetrable, technical language. You ask yourself, what does it mean for me?

“To be able to have a test like this which provides you with a result of the melanoma being low or at risk can help your medical team communicate the information in a way that is comprehensible, and importantly to help them to make the right subsequent decisions for you.

“A test, like AMBLor which tells you that your tumour is genuinely low risk helps significantly with the anxiety of an already very stressful situation.

“Patients will understand what a low-risk result means.

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“If the result is a risk, it completely justifies the significant number of interactions that you will have with the dermatology team over a five year period.

“I don’t see any downside in providing the dermatology team with more information about your melanoma.”

Prof Loves said the new test “offers a personalised prognosis as it more accurately predicts if your skin cancer is unlikely to spread”.

He added: “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 NHS time and money.”

Phil Brady, British Skin Foundation chief operating officer, 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.”

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