Australian Researchers Lead The Fight Against Advanced Melanoma

Researchers at the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation are the world leaders in the fight against advanced melanoma, as they begin a ground-breaking trial.

What you need to know
  • Each year, around 1800 Australians die from melanoma
  • Trial combines two immuno-oncology drugs to better combat the disease.
  • First human trials have begun.

Australian researchers are leading the way in finding better treatments for an aggressive form of melanoma.

Scientists at the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation in Brisbane have recruited the first patient in the world for a ground breaking new trial, combining two immuno-oncology drugs (relatlimab and nivolumab) to better treat the potentially deadly disease.

Each year, around 1800 Australians die from melanoma, but it’s through trials such as this one that major treatment breakthroughs are made.

Brisbane woman, and fierce melanoma awareness campaigner, Emma Betts was diagnosed with stage four melanoma at age 22, and lost her battle with the disease last year.

When she was given the devastating news, she was told she had three months to live – but ended up living another three years with the help of clinical trials.

Betts' parents were with research staff this morning when the announcement was made.

“We did get an extra three years, but it’d be nice to get an extra lifetime,” her father Leon Betts said.

Emma Bett’s oncologist, and melanoma researcher Dr Victoria Atkinson said existing treatments available weren’t always successful for patients.

“40 to 45% of people will get good shrinkage and control,” she said.

“There is about one third of people who will get disease stability and life extension, but there's also about a third who don't get any response at all.”

Clinical Trial Manager Suzanne Elliott paid tribute to patients, like Betts, who give their time so willingly for the benefit of others.

“If we didn’t have those people, we wouldn’t have the drugs we have today,” she said.

It’s hoped the combination of the drugs may improve patient outcomes, including disease remission, or prevention of tumour spread.

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