An important blood marker can lead to effective melanoma treatments

An important blood marker can lead to effective melanoma treatments
An important blood marker can lead to effective melanoma treatments
Reviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.October 16, 2020

A study from Edith Cowan University (ECU) showed that a key cancer blood marker can be used to help select the most effective treatment for melanoma.

The discovery, which has the potential to improve melanoma survival rates, was published in today Clinical cancer research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The study found that patients with high levels of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) – a key indicator of cancer in the blood – could potentially benefit from more aggressive treatment as a first line of defense against melanoma.

The study’s lead researcher, Associate Professor Elin Gray, said the finding could help doctors deliver effective melanoma treatments.

Choosing the right course of drugs and therapies to treat melanoma is extremely complex and depends on a number of factors, including the characteristics of the tumor and its spread throughout the body. „

Elin Gray, Director of Studies and Associate Professor Gray, Edith Cowan University

“This biomarker could help doctors better determine which patients would get better results if we first used aggressive combination immunotherapy to fight the cancer.”


Associate Professor Gray said while the research needs to be validated in future studies, it underscores the need to carefully consider how biomarkers are used in making decisions about how to treat melanoma.

“Knowing when to take certain types of cancer drugs and which patients would benefit most is important, as aggressive treatments often lead to more serious side effects,” she said.

“This research will help clinicians provide personalized therapy regimens based on specific disease characteristics and the patient.”

More information

The study, part of the dissertation of ECU PhD student Gabriela Marsavela, examined the levels of the ctDNA biomarker in the blood of 125 metastatic melanoma patients who were recruited at Fiona Stanley Hospital and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, prior to immunotherapy . The results have been validated in 128 patients enrolled in collaboration with the Melanoma Institute Australia and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center.

The research also found that the ctDNA biomarker cannot predict patient outcome in melanoma patients who received immunotherapy as a second line of treatment. Previous studies have shown the marker to be useful in predicting patient survival prior to the first line of treatment.

Associate Professor Gray said this finding was significant.

“While ctDNA can be used to indicate the patient’s response to targeted melanoma therapies in the first round, we now know that this biomarker cannot predict survival after second-line treatment,” she said.

“This means that doctors should use other methods to determine whether treatment will be successful or not.”

Future of medicine

The new findings build on growing research by the ECU Melanoma Research Group, which is studying cancer markers in the blood, also known as fluid biopsies. Examining these blood biomarkers is important in understanding how cancer spreads throughout the body.

According to Associate Professor Gray, further analysis of key biomarkers could provide clues as to how future treatments can be unlocked.

“We fought to find new drugs and therapies to treat melanoma. However, if we find evidence that a certain drug can work on a tumor with certain properties, we can use existing drugs in a more targeted and precise manner. ”“ She said.

Associate Professor Gray’s team is now digging deeper into the characteristics of melanoma tumors that become resistant to therapy and why second-line treatments fail.

“This study really raised a lot of questions, and now we want to know what makes these tumors different, more aggressive and more resistant to therapy,” said Professor Gray.

“Circulating tumor DNA predicts the outcome of the first but not the second treatment and identifies melanoma patients who can benefit from combined immunotherapy,” was published in Clinical cancer research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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