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Melanoma Research in the News: Australia’s New Research Advancements

Swedish world-leading expert Professor Jonas Nilsson visited Western Australia’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (HPIOMR) in 2020 to take the position of inaugural chair of melanoma discovery and has since stayed on to continue his research here in Australia.

Professor Nilsson trained as a molecular biologist and tumour biologist in both Sweden and the United States.  He later started a lab in Sweden, founding the Sahlgrenska Translational Melanoma Group.  This group is a collaboration of researchers who are working to match individually designed treatment plans for patients suffering from melanoma. 

Immunotherapy Treatment in Australia

The main treatment currently available to Australian’s suffering from melanoma is immunotherapy treatment.  This treatment option, however, only benefits around 50 per cent of patients.  Professor Nilsson and his team are now continuing his research which aims to help the other 50 per cent of patients with a treatment called cell-therapy.  

In immunotherapy, the patient’s immune system is harnessed to attack cancer cells.  Cell-therapy, however, takes cells from the tumour and ‘super-charges’ them in a lab.  They are then reintroduced back into the body to help the patient fight the disease.

Until now, no hospital in Australia has been set up to offer this type of therapy, so Professor Nilsson is bringing it with him and setting it up in WA at the HPIOMR. This research requires biobanking of patient tumours, developing ‘humanised’ mice, purpose-built labs, and specially trained researchers. 

New Treatment Options for Skin Cancer

Professor Nilsson does not expect that this treatment will help everyone as a ‘magic bullet’ for skin cancer, just like the current immunotherapy option only helps 50 per cent of patients.  He is, however, optimistic that this will provide another avenue of treatment that offers people hope. 

This news follows Professor Nilsson receiving the prestigious Business Events Perth Aspire Award in October 2021.  The award, presented by the State Government-funded Business Events Perth, has given Western Australia’s melanoma research renewed international recognition.  The award has resulted in Professor Nilsson being invited to speak at and share his latest research at the Australasian Melanoma Conference and the Society of Melanoma Research Annual Meeting in 2022, linking him and the Western Australia research institute to other global experts. 

Professor Peter Leeman AO, the director of the HPIOMR commented that ‘the work Professor Nilsson is leading in Western Australia focuses on improving patient outcomes from this deadly disease which currently is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.’

Continuing Future Advancements in Skin Cancer Treatment

Additionally, Professor Nilsson is optimistic that the award and international recognition will attract other international academics to come to Perth and join the medical research conferences, which is also beneficial to the advancement of research and treatments in Australia. 

The HPIOMR where Professor Nilsson is based doesn’t exclusively focus on melanoma research and is one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes that researches many other diseases, while offering students a place to study science and medicine degrees.  With three hospital campuses in Perth and over 250 researchers, they conduct clinical trials and cutting-edge research to discover new and innovative medical treatment options.  The diseases they currently focus on include cancer, neurogenetic diseases, heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and mitochondrial disease.  

Among its various initiatives, the HPIOMR works closely with the Western Australian Kirkbride Melanoma Advisory Service (WAKMAS).  WAKMAS has a panel of multidisciplinary specialists to who doctors can refer their melanoma patients for advice regarding the management and treatment of complex and advanced metastatic melanoma.  They work with both the doctors and patients to ensure that they have the best melanoma treatment plan possible.  Through its work with WAKMAS and Professor Nilsson, the HPIOMR is revolutionising melanoma treatment options for Australian patients. 

Trust SunDoctors to Give You Cutting-Edge Skin Cancer News

Our SunDoctors team are always keeping up to date with the latest news and research in our medical field.  We are hopeful that Professor Nilsson’s research and work with the HPIOMR will result in new advancements and treatment options for our melanoma patients.  If you have questions about melanoma research and the treatment options that are currently available, our team of expert doctors can answer them at your next skin check or appointment

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