Melanoma Australia
An elderly Australian man reads a newspaper among other sun-worshippers on Sydney's famed Bondi beach during a sweltering summer day December 4, 2002. Reuters/Jason Reed

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner will be officially opening a $5 million research lab on Friday at the Westmead Institute that is set to enable considerable progress in the field of melanoma research and save lives of many Australians.

The Institute’s world-leading expertise in the analysis and treatment of melanoma has been significantly boosted by the new Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Melanoma Laboratories at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

The Institute’s co-director of cancer research, professor Graham Mann, thanked Australians at the official opening of the laboratories in Sydney on Thursday. He said that it was their generosity that allowed the clinicians and melanoma researchers at The Westmead Institute to become global leaders in skin cancer research.

“The grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation allowed us to hard-wire melanoma research and its translation into clinical care at the Westmead campus. And it has created an attractive environment that continues to bring the best cancer researchers to work on melanoma at Westmead,” Mann said in a press release.

He added that the next step for the researchers would be to identify and understand melanoma’s numerous genetic variations. They also need to understand why these variations result in varied treatment responses in individual patients.

Mann is confident that the drugs that are being used now are befitting a lot of patients, even those having extensive melanoma. He is excited at this tremendous progress the Westmead researchers have made. However, he also pointed out the need to have more options as existing treatments do not work for everyone.

In order to rapidly identify which drug would be effective for a particular patient, Mann spoke on the importance of smarter testing. He is determined to make melanoma treatable for everyone aided by state-of-art labs like the ACRF Melanoma Laboratories at The Westmead Institute.

Till date, researchers at the highly-advanced labs have been able to discover the first gene causing a high risk of melanoma. They went on to discover most of the 20 gene variations identified till date that, together with sun exposure, determine melanoma risk in the community.

The researchers via the ACRF Melanoma Laboratories have also contributed to the largest melanoma research collections in the world, in partnership with Melanoma Institute Australia, driving efforts to realize why certain treatments work or don’t work and informing the next generation of effective treatments.

The Westmead labs also laid the foundation for one of the very first trials in the world of immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs and mutation targeted therapy.

“Translational research aims to close the gap between basic research and clinical application. In recent years ACRF has had the privilege to support this kind of visionary work that we are confident it will play a major part in facilitating a pathway from medical discovery to improved health,” said professor Ian Brown, CEO, Australian Cancer Research Foundation.