Early detection of melanoma

Early detection of melanoma utilising 3D body imaging technology

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from epidermal melanocytes and usually occurs on parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. Early detection and recognition of melanoma is critical for successful treatment.

This project will develop an innovative 3D body imaging system, linked to electronic medical records and telehealth networks, to enable more accurate screening and diagnosis of high-risk patients. A comparison study of diagnostic agreement and clinical decision making between tele-dermatology (tele-derm) and face-to-face dermatology assessment will guide development of this system.

Results from this study will feed into the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Australia Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis (ACEMID) Cohort Study, under which ACEMID is establishing a network of 15 3D total body skin imaging systems, and technology infrastructure to form a multi-disciplinary, multi-site centre of excellence.

A clinic will also be developed to see high-risk patients and train the next generation of dermatologists in the early detection of melanoma.

Outcomes

  • A comparison study of diagnostic agreement and clinical decision making between tele-derm and face-to-face dermatology assessment was completed. The study comparison studied involved a sample of 41 participants.

  • A melanoma clinic was established at Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) one day per week, seeing four to five high-risk patients. Most patients are seen by registrars under supervision of consultant dermatologists. This contributes to the project’s objective of training the next generation of dermatologists.

  • A consumer framework was developed.

Next steps

  • Working under the ACRF ACEMID Cohort Study, the project team has received other funding to establish a familial melanoma clinic over three years. Recruitment began at the PAH site on 10 February 2021, with the first participant visit conducted on the 15 February. The PAH site is currently staffed by two part-time melanographers and six part-time clinicians. To date, 138 participants (119 at very high risk of melanoma, 9 at high risk of melanoma and 10 at low/average risk of melanoma) have been enrolled, and 63 have completed their baseline clinic visit. 

  • Further funding has been received to extend the clinics to a further five sites in Cairns, Townsville, Sunshine Coast, Metro North Hospital and Health Service, and Mt Isa, with a target of 1000 patients per site over a 3-year period.

Project investigators

Project leaders engage with and draw on the expertise of partners within universities, research institutes, and hospital and health services around Queensland.

  • Professor H. Peter Soyer, Dermatologist, The University of Queensland (Lead)

  • Dr Brigid Betz-Stablein, Post Doctorial Research Fellow, The University of Queensland (Biostatistician)

  • Associate Professor Liam Caffery, Telehealth and Director of Telehealth Technology, The University of Queensland

  • Dr Aideen McInerney-Leo, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

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