Research update from the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation

blondmcindoe research foundation
“I think you can do it!” With these words in 2010, Harry Townsend, founder of the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund encouraged us to develop a melanoma research project at the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation. With a generous donation of £ 25,000, we were off to a very good start.
Since then, we have formed a strong multi-disciplinary research group, which consists of clinicians at the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit at Queen Victoria Hospital, Professor Sarah Newbury’s laboratory at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and our team at the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation.

yella martin and michelle baker discussing early and advanced stage melanoma
Michelle Baker from the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund met up with Dr Yella Martin last week to discuss progress
Together we work on developing a new laboratory test that can distinguish between early and advanced stage melanoma.
We know that early diagnosis of melanoma recurrence has a really positive effect on treatment options and long-term outcomes for patients. Our aim is to develop the biomarkers into a test that can be used during routine screening of patients who have had an early stage melanoma removed. During the patients’ follow-up checks, we take a small amount of blood and use this to test for the presence of these biomarkers. If they are detected, then this would be an early warning sign that the melanoma may be coming back and spreading to other parts of the body.
For our study, we recruited 60 patients between 2012 and 2014, who donated a small amount of blood each. We have analysed small molecules in the blood, which are called microRNAs. There are 2,500 different microRNA molecules in our cells and some are present in the blood. How many microRNAs and how much of each is affected when a patient has cancer. We found that a number of microRNAs were different in the blood of patients with early stage melanoma and those with advanced stage melanoma.
This is very encouraging as it shows that a blood test may successfully indicate early progression of melanoma recurrence.
We are now in the final stages of advanced statistical analysis of the data and are also performing a small number of additional experiments in the laboratory to firm up our data. We will then write this work up as a manuscript for publication in a scientific journal, so that this knowledge can be shared with scientists and clinicians around the world.
 1quality data using our patient samples
As a team, we have also started planning the next phase of the work. We are now identifying other melanoma units around the country who will be partners in a larger study. In order to get enough data to develop this knowledge into a practical laboratory test, we will need to confirm our findings in many more patients. So the melanoma research team is about to grow!
We are very excited to have come this far and to generate really good quality data using our patient samples. Without the help of the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund and Harry’s initial encouragement, this would not have been possible.
Dr. Yella Martin comments:
“Working on asun glazing through clouds melanoma research project has had a big impact on my attitude to sun behaviour and sun safety. I have never been a fan of excessive sun bathing, but now I am extra careful and encourage everyone I know to does the same. Having recently become a mum, I have a much greater appreciation of safe sun behaviour in children. I think that my daughter will grow up with a well-informed attitude to staying safe in the sun, as a direct result of my involvement in this project.”

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