October 2019

Professor Penny Lovat and Dr Robert Ellis of Newcastle University have developed a new test which predicts whether an early melanoma is likely to spread or return in people who have experienced this deadly form of skin cancer.

The research, which was partially funded by the British Skin Foundation alongside other charities, is expected to be available to patients within two years and is currently seeking approvals with the relevant authority.

The prognostic AMBLor test is able to better identify a patient’s true risk of disease progression when they are in the earliest stages of melanoma. Up to 70 percent of new patients with stage 1 melanoma will have more accurate information about the risk of the disease spreading, meaning their doctors can develop personalised treatment plans for them.

Professor Lovat and Dr Ellis’ research identifies biomarkers which form the basis of the AMBLor test, namely two protein markers AMBRA1 and loricrin which are normally present in the upper layer of the skin.  They found that the loss of these markers in patients with early-stage melanoma is associated with high-risk tumours, whereas if the markers are retained there is a significantly reduced risk of their tumour spreading.

Once approved, the AMBLor test can be applied to the standard biopsy of the primary tumour on its removal, giving a clearer prediction for patients.

Chief scientist Professor Penny Lovat, Professor of Cellular Dermatology and Oncology at Newcastle University and Chief Scientific Officer at AMLo Biosciences, the University spin-out company behind the testing kit says: "Building on our previous studies, this new research demonstrates that the loss or reduction of these proteins indicate that the tumour is more likely to spread allowing us to develop our test, called AMBLor. This can be applied to the standard biopsy and also identifies those who have genuinely low-risk, less aggressive cancers.

"As a patient, the AMBLor test tells you if you're in the low risk category—and can offer you reassurance. It could also save the NHS up to £38 million a year by reducing the number of follow-up appointments for those identified as low-risk."

Dr Rob Ellis is an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University, and also a Consultant Dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer at AMLo Biosciences. He explains: "My colleagues and I are seeing more and more patients referred to our NHS clinics as the number of cases of melanoma increases—and we know that 17,000 patients are diagnosed in the UK every year.

"What we have developed is a test which will offer personalized, prognostic information—so we will be able to more accurately predict if your skin cancer is unlikely to spread. This is a really exciting finding for clinicians and in the future it will help us tailor the treatment and follow up appointments in an appropriate fashion."

Read the complete paper here.

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