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New blood test can help catching deadly eye melanoma early

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Posted November 22, 2019

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer. It is not easy to notice, because people are not paying attention. You have to look after your moles and skin pigmentation – this is the only way to catch melanoma early. However, it is even more difficult to recognize and identify it when melanoma attacks an eye, but now scientists created a new promising blood test.

Freckles, moles and naevi in eyes are completely normal, common and usually benign, but you have to watch them. Image credit: Lucashawranke via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

Just like on your skin, moles or naevi in the eye are common. The difference is that you can easily monitor moles on your skin, while the ones in your eyes are visually inaccessible to you. In fact, some people may not be aware that they have a mole in one of their eyes. This means that it is difficult to watch melanoma early, if it starts in the eye. It quickly spreads to the liver and other parts of the body and is only discovered when trying to trace the roots of the metastases. And, if it spreads, outcomes are very poor.

Researchers from the University of Queensland have created a blood test, which can differentiate between a benign mole and a melanoma. It can also provide an insight, if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. How scientists were able to achieve that?

They collected a bunch of blood samples of people with benign naevi and melanomas. They also tooks some samples from people who suffered from metastasised melanoma cases. Then scientists looked for microRNA biomarkers to distinguish the stage of disease. Once these biomarkers have been established, they created a blood test, which can distinguish between those biomarkers, showing which case is melanoma (and which one has already spread) and which one is benign.

Dr Mitchell Stark, one of the authors of the study, said: “f 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. If the biomarker in the blood had increased, it might be an early warning sign of melanoma”.

This is a life-saving innovation. The earlier the diagnosis, the bigger the chances are for successful treatment. Hopefully, this test will be standardized soon, but before that some more research will probably have to be done. Scientists say that this test will be very useful in a clinical setting, but it may take some years to get there.

 

Source: University of Queensland

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