Current Research

Melanoma Focus is proud to be a charity that is committed to commission, fund, support and promote research into the wide field of melanoma for patient benefit.


We regularly invite applications from UK melanoma researchers. Thanks to your donations, we have funded investigators who work as melanoma clinicians, dermatologists, advanced non-medical practitioners, surgeons, scientists, pathologists and health economists.
Our Scientific Committee, led by Dr Samra Turajlic, evaluates the proposals and makes recommendations for the research awards. Our current research projects are listed below.

>See here for past projects

CURRENT PROJECTS

 

 

    1. SLN Predict: Sentinel Lymph Node Predictor to optimise melanoma care

 

 

    2. Construction of a data entry portal for participants in MyMelanoma: The world’s largest prospective melanoma cohort

 

 

    3. Identifying the costs and consequences of the diagnosis and management of melanoma – to assess the impact of melanoma prevention programmes

 

 

    4. A qualitative exploration of the lived experiences of patients who have received immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma and the support they received

 

 

 

 

CURRENT PROJECT 1

 

SLN Predict: Sentinel Lymph Node Predictor to optimise melanoma care

 

Clinical Investigators:

Professor Fadi Issa; Associate Professor/Wellcome Trust CRCD Fellow & Consultant Burns & Plastic Surgeon
Mr Oliver Cassell; Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon & Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer University of Oxford

Co-Investigators

Charlotte Proby, Professor of Dermatology
Dr Rubeta Matin, Consultant Dermatologist
Mr Rowan Pritchard Jones, Consultant Plastic Reconstructive Surgeon

Project start date

01/06/2021

Proposed project duration

18months (for the feasibility study, not the prospective trial)

Project Summary

Melanoma patients are treated with wide local excision surgery and sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) as their primary treatment if their melanoma tumour is 0.8mm or thicker. If melanoma cells are found in this first (sentinel) lymph node, patients are offered additional (or adjuvant) drug treatments which can reduce their chances of the melanoma returning.

Less than one in five SLNBs are positive, particularly in thinner melanomas. There are side effects to SLNB which may cause significant lifelong problems for patients, including a swollen leg. It is also important to concentrate the surgical resources for SLNB on those patients that most need it.

American and Dutch researchers have therefore developed a more precise method to select which melanoma patients should have SLNB procedures. The predictor test (SLN Predict) could accurately identify patients with a <5% risk of melanoma cells having spread to a lymph node.

This feasibility study will validate (retrospectively) the SLN Predict test in 1,500 UK melanoma patients for whom the SLNB result is known, which will allow this predictor test to be used in a future larger prospective clinical trial.

There are 2 main aims of the feasibility study

  • To validate the predictor test that can identify patients with <5% risk of melanoma cells spreading to a lymph node. If this test is accurate, future patients with <5% risk might not need to have an SLNB, reducing side effects for patients and also saving NHS resources.
  • To see if the predictor test can predict the risk of the melanoma recurring after a negative sentinel lymph node biopsy. This will identify high-risk patients with thin (<0.8mm) melanoma that may benefit from having adjuvant drug treatment after their surgery, and who don’t currently receive this as standard.

The funding from Melanoma Focus will allow:

  • The retrospective validation of the predictor test (SLN Predict) within an NHS setting
  • Feasibility work to support a funding application for a prospective multi-centre clinical trial

Comment from Clinical Investigators

“The funding from melanoma focus has helped kick start this study, which will aim to reduce the need for surgery. It has helped with database management for the sentinel node results and for collecting pathology tissue for analysis.”

 

CURRENT PROJECT 2

 

Construction of a data entry portal for participants in MyMelanoma: The world’s largest prospective melanoma cohort

 

Project leaders

Julia Newton-Bishop, Professor of Dermatology University of Leeds
Mark Middleton; Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine, University of Oxford
Brian Shine, University of Oxford
Brian Nicholson, University of Oxford

Academic team

Michale Youdell, University of Oxford
Rachael Brennan, Public Health England
Antonia Pritchard, University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness
Colette Mustard, University of the Highlands and Islands
Catherine Harwood, Barts and the London Schools of Medicine and Dentistry
Zoe Venables, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and PHE
Charlotte Proby, University of Dundee,
Rachael Abbott, Cardiff, and Vale University Health Board
Olivia Dolan, Belfast NHS Trust
Anna Olsson-Brown, University of Liverpool
Drs Sancy Leachman and Elizabeth Berry, University of Portland Oregon
Tim Bishop, University of Leeds
Saskia Reeken, Kingston NHS Hospital

Project start date

01/2022

Proposed project duration

12 months

Project Summary

MyMelanoma is a project to build a very important data resource, to be used by melanoma researchers all over the world to answer the most important questions for melanoma patients. Any person who has been treated for melanoma of the skin or mucous membranes (genital, ear nose and throat, or the mouth) by the NHS in the UK will be eligible to join MyMelanoma by registering online when the project is launched. We hope to open recruitment in January 2023.

MyMelanoma grew out of the desire for melanoma survivors to play an active role in guiding melanoma research. The resource is therefore being developed as a close collaboration between patients, clinicians, and scientists and the MyMelanoma team will therefore be guided by the patient members of the Board and participants in the study. MyMelanoma webpage will be a crucial portal for patients to express their views.

The MyMelanoma team have defined a number of questions for melanoma patients to answer. These include whether a patient’s life after a diagnosis (exercise, diet, exposure to certain drugs) affect the chance of relapse. Other factors that the project wants to explore are how to better predict which patients have a higher risk of relapse and who might therefore consider drug treatment soon after diagnosis. In addition, to predict which patients would be unlikely to benefit from drug treatments so that they might be spared the side effects and/or try other drugs instead.

The MyMelanoma project will collect data online from very large numbers of patients which is necessary to answer these questions, and others. In order to do this an online portal must be developed which is easy for participants to use and above all, the data must be held securely. The grant provided by Melanoma Focus will allow MyMelanoma to build this portal working with a company called AIMES.

The main aims of this part of the research project

  • To incorporate a secure communication system between patients and the MyMelanoma team within the REDCap system.
  • To build a secure means of linking data provided by the participant with NHS data such that the linkage is accurate, and the data are held securely according to the law.

The funding from Melanoma Focus will allow:

An essential step in the development of the project by putting in place an online system for collecting information from patients. The funding will allow for the first year’s costs to be covered to support the REDCap platform and for data storage.

Comment from Project Leaders

“MyMelanoma is a very big project and the Melanoma Focus grant provided is the essential first step. It is a new concept in cancer research which we hope will escalate progress in the management of melanoma by allowing researchers anywhere in the world to use their particular expertise to examine MyMelanoma data, leading to more rapid results.”

 

CURRENT PROJECT 3

 

Identifying the costs and consequences of the diagnosis and management of melanoma – to assess the impact of melanoma prevention programmes

 

Clinical Investigators:

Katherine Payne, Professor of Health Economics

Co-Investigators

Martin Eden, Research Fellow in Health Economics
Louisa Gordon, Associate Professor in Health Economics
Adele Green, Professor of Epidemiology
Paul Lorigan, Professor of Medical Oncology

Project start date

12/2021

Proposed project duration

6 months

Project Summary

Preventing melanoma from occurring is far better than having to treat it. Evidence-based public health campaigns are aimed at reducing melanomas by removing exposure to ultraviolet radiation including from indoor tanning (sunbed) facilities. Sunbed use for cosmetic purposes causes melanoma affecting quality and length of life and imposing significant financial burden on healthcare systems. However, policies to ban commercial sunbeds and reduce melanoma must be shown to have a positive impact on NHS costs and patient health before being considered by governments.

This study, that is tailored specifically to the UK, feeds into a global agenda to prevent melanoma caused by the use of commercial sunbeds. It builds on the published work of co-investigators Gordon and Green, including studies that led to commercial sunbeds being banned in Australia.
This research is a vital step on the move towards implementing legislation to ban removal of sunbeds for public use in the UK, which is hoped will achieve wide benefit by reducing the number of patients diagnosed and living with melanoma in the future.

The main aims of the study

This project aims to gather information for the effectiveness and costs of diagnosing, treating, and monitoring different stages of melanoma based on current UK clinical practice.These data will then be used to update a published analysis assessing the impact of reducing the use of sunbeds on the costs and health-consequences of the management of melanoma.Preventing melanoma development through public health initiatives will save many lives, reduce the related morbidity and avoid unnecessary NHS spending. Ultimately, this proposed study will help promote the timely approval of health-improving interventions for use in UK healthcare system.

The funding from Melanoma Focus will allow:

The initial cost-effectiveness analysis to be updated with costs of current melanoma diagnosis and management practices.

Comment from Clinical Investigators

“The support from Melanoma Focus is crucial to enable us to generate the data needed to understand the impact of removing access to commercial sunbeds supported by a public health campaign. This work will be a step towards the goal of reducing the number of melanomas and the harmful consequences on people and healthcare systems.”

 

CURRENT PROJECT 4

 

A qualitative exploration of the lived experiences of patients who have received immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma and the support they received.

 

Clinical Investigators:

Delia Sworm, Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner Oncology Skin Cancers; St Luke’s Cancer Centre, Royal Surrey County Hospital
Postgraduate Student, MSc in Advanced Clinical Practice, University of Surrey,

Project start date

04/2022

Proposed project duration

6 months

Project Summary

Historically metastatic melanoma has been ‘chemotherapy resistant’ with a poor overall survival rate. Over the last decade, there has been a significant improvement in survival due to the introduction of single-agent and dual combination immunotherapy.
This research project aims to explore the lived experiences of patients during and after completing a course of immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma.

The main aims and objectives of the study

  • To explore and understand the lived experiences of patients during treatment for metastatic melanoma.
  • To identify the key issues and challenges they face once they have completed treatment, and what matters most to them (both during and post treatment).
  • To describe the support patients received during and post-treatment and explore their perceptions of that support.
  • To explore if there were any questions or concerns that they had about their experiences of immunotherapy and the care that they received, but they felt unable to ask (e.g., because they lacked confidence, knowledge, felt too anxious to ask).

The study will interview up to 10 participants recruited via an independent patient support group which covers the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance geographical area. The interviews will be conducted online or by telephone using a semi-structured topic guide. Participants will be purposively recruited at varying time points post-treatment with an approximate time frame of three, six and 12 months plus.

The study will offer the participants an opportunity to convey their experiences and thus contribute to the evidence base. It is anticipated that the study will enhance the understanding of patients’ needs both during and post immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma and positively influence future practice.

The funding from Melanoma Focus will allow:

This Melanoma Focus funded research project will be submitted to the University of Surrey as the Lead Researcher’s MSc dissertation. Furthermore, the research results will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication, presented at conferences, seminars, and professional forums.
It is anticipated that research findings will allow for deeper insights into the human experience of the participants’ cancer journey by exploring their inner experiences. This, in turn, will translate to clinical practice and help to identify training needs and initiatives required to improve local and national service delivery.
The study will also generate ideas for future research in this rapidly evolving area.

Comment from Clinical Investigators

‘’I am hugely grateful to Melanoma Focus for the funding of this project which will enable greater insight into patients’ perspectives and experiences’