9 Sep 2017

New blood test to detect melanoma

10:03 am on 9 September 2017

A blood test that can help to diagnose melanoma in its early stages has been developed by researchers.

New Zealand has 50 cases per 100,000 people and rising, say researchers.

Photo: 123RF

More than 2400 New Zealanders are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and around 350 die as a result.

Professor Mel Ziman at Perth's Edith Cowan University said her team had identified clear auto-antibody signatures, which the body produces in response to melanoma tumours, that can be picked up in a blood test.

"That's useful to help with diagnosis of melanoma in very early stage cases where sometimes it's not so easy."

"We can't compete with dermatologists who with a visual inspection and biopsy can pick up about 90 percent of cases.

"Our accuracy is approximately 80 percent sensitivity and specificity, so that's pretty good as far as these blood tests go," she said.

The test would be most beneficial for patients with more than 100 moles where suspect ones can be harder to find, and to find melanomas that were not brown, she said.

While Professor Ziman hoped the test could be routinely available within five years, it still had to meet necessary clinical thresholds.

"We will have to validate the test, [and] do clinical trials... to see how accurate our test is [compared to other methods] and how beneficial."

Her team would also need to figure out how the test could be performed with standard lab equipment, she said.

Professor Ziman is presenting her research at a melanoma research and therapy conference in Queenstown this weekend.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs