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Australian-developed test could reveal progression of eye melanoma

A blood test developed at the University of Queensland (UQ) is able to differentiate between a life-threatening melanoma of the eye and a benign mole.

According to Dr Mitchell Stark, NHMRC Early Career Fellow at UQ’s Diamantina Institute, the newly developed test is capable of identifying different stages of the disease.

“The test also has the potential to show if the melanoma has metastasised and spread to other areas of the body,” Stark said

“Moles or naevi in the eye are common, but can be difficult to monitor because changes to their shape or colouring can’t always be seen as easily as on the skin.”

The process looks at a patient’s microRNA biomarkers, which change as the disease progresses. The project is a continuation of Stark’s previous work at QIMR Berghofer that applied the same technique to melanoma of the skin.

It is hoped the test could play a role in monitoring the diseases’ progression, in conjunction with optometrists, general practitioners and specialists.

“If someone went to their optometrist for a regular check-up and a mole was found, you could have this blood test at each routine visit to help monitor mole changes,” Stark said.

“If the biomarker in the blood had increased, it might be an early warning sign of melanoma.

“Knowing this patient was high-risk means they could be monitored more closely for the potential spread of cancer and be progressed more rapidly through the healthcare system.”

The research was recently published in the journal Translational Vision Science & Technology. It was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council and the Merchant Charitable Foundation.

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