WA scientists develop new test for early detection of melanoma

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Scientists from Edith Cowan University (ECU) have developed the world's first blood test capable of detecting melanoma in its early stages.

The new test has the potential to save lives and save the health system millions of dollars.

The blood test was trialled on a total of 209 people, 105 of whom had melanoma, and picked up early stage melanoma in 81.5 per cent of cases.

The test works by detecting antibodies produced by the body in response to melanoma. The team at ECU examined 1,627 different antibodies and identified a combination of ten that are the most reliable in predicting the presence of melanoma.

The next step is a clinical trial to validate the findings. The scientists say the test could be available for clinical use in around three years.

Survival rates for melanoma are between 90 and 95 per cent if the disease is detected early but if the cancer spreads survival rates drop to below 50 per cent.

Currently, melanomas are detected visually by clinicians, with any areas of concern biopsied. Three out of four biopsies return negative results. Biopsies are uncomfortable for patients and expensive - Australia spends $201 million annually, $73 million of which is accounted for by negative biopsies.