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Melanoma

Apex Foundation has been funding melanoma research since 1989 and continues to do so through its Charitable Trust. In this time there has been enormous improvements to detection and cure and recent breakthroughs are both significant and exciting. Our aim is to assist in the research, treatment and funding of this deadly skin cancer which is so prevalent in Australia. Apex’s involvement in the melanoma cause began when over $ 600,000 was raised in the 1988/1989 under National Apex Service Scheme promoted by Moree Apex Club in Moree, New South Wales. Over the years it has been a major benefactor to the Sydney based Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA).

Melanoma is the third most common form of cancer in both men and women and with the highest incidence in the world, melanoma is known as Australia’s national cancer. Melanoma is also the most common cancer in young Australians aged 15-29 years and kills more young Australians than any other cancer. More than 12,500 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed every year in Australia. However, 90% of people will be treated successfully by having their primary melanoma surgically removed. Metastatic (or secondary) melanomas are more difficult to treat and are the focus of much of the ground-breaking research being conducted by the team at MIA.

Recent financial support by the Apex Charitable Trust has supported an important clinical trial being driven by the team at MIA. The EAGLE FM trial is an Australian initiative designed to provide comprehensive evidence for the extent of surgery which patients should have who are newly diagnosed with melanoma that has spread to the groin lymph nodes. In the past 12 months, we have seen significant progress in this trial. It has launched locally with 12 (of 75) patients recruited already and now secured a comprehensive support to a large phase III internationally recruiting trial involving the major melanoma units in Australia, England, Italy, Brazil, Slovenia and Holland.

The Apex Foundation continues to support this important surgical trial and is focused on supporting its success internationally.

Apex supports the Melanoma Institute of Australia (MIA) and since inception $ 1,110,000 has been granted for this cause. In the
2015/16 year Apex funded $ 15,000 for the purchase of a clinical microscope to further the critical research.

Update from MIA:

At Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), our purpose is to prevent and treat melanoma, Australia’s ‘national cancer’. Of all the forms
of skin cancer, melanoma is the most deadly and one Australian dies from melanoma every six hours. However, 95% of melanomas
are preventable. Melanoma tends to affect the over 60s, who did not use sunscreens in their earlier years, and is also the most
common form of cancer in the 15-39 year old age group – a little known fact. While sun safety measures introduced in Australia in the 70s and 80s have had a positive and protective effect, melanoma remains a major health issue.

MIA fulfils its purpose through three interlinked activity streams: research, treatment and education. At MIA, every clinician is also a researcher and our clinician/ researchers have been very successful – particularly over the past five years. Five years ago, melanoma could only be treated with surgery and this only worked if the melanoma was detected early. For people with advanced melanoma (where it has spread to other organs), there was no hope. Today, work done at MIA has seen the one-year survival rate of patients with advanced melanoma extended from 25% to 75%. This has been largely due to the discovery of a range of drugs, which are offered
to patients through MIA’s substantial program of clinical trials. Immunotherapies (which redirect the immune system to do its job and attack the cancer) and targeted therapies (which block the action of a particular gene involved in melanoma) are achieving incredible results for many. However, MIA’s research efforts continue to delve into why these drugs work for some, and not for others, and how to accurately predict who will respond to what.

The fields of medical oncology (using drugs to treat melanoma) and pathology (accurately diagnosing and staging melanoma based on tissue samples) have come to the fore. It is in the latter field that the Apex Foundation’s gift of $15,000 to provide a new clinical  microscope and camera comes in. We are very grateful for this support and
for the Foundation’s ongoing benefaction over many years.

MIA’s expertise in all fields relevant to melanoma has been recognised nationally and internationally. For example, Prof John Thompson AO, Executive Director (a surgeon), is considered the leading figure in melanoma in the world. Prof Richard Scolyer (pathologist) is ranked as the premier pathologist in the world, and indeed the sixth greatest expert in melanoma out of all the disciplines. Prof Scolyer founded MIA’s biobank, which is the largest collection of tissue and blood samples in melanoma in the world, and feeds research efforts nationally and internationally. Thus, the humble microscope and camera provided through the Apex Foundation’s generosity is playing its role on the global stage.

MIA needs to continue to fuel its research, treatment and education efforts and philanthropic contributions from the community remain absolutely essential to our ability to deliver for people with or at risk of melanoma.

There remains an enormous amount of work to be done in research and education to hopefully stem this killer in our Australian society.

Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. It is the most frequently occurring cancer in the age group 15 to 54.

It has increased by nearly 15% over the last 10 years. With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, outcomes are usually very positive.

Apex Foundation through its trust, specifically provides financial or other support for the Melanoma Foundation for:

  • Public education and awareness of Melanoma and skin cancers
  • Specialised education of children and medical personnel
  • Support specific research projects
  • Financial or other support for funds, authorities or institutions

In 2016, a $15,000 grant was approved for the Melanoma Institute of Australia, to purchase a microscope for research.

This year’s focus is to investigate the mechanisms of action and resistance of systematic therapies in metastatic melanoma.

The ultimate aim is to develop therapies to prevent and cure metastatic melanoma.

Click to access Melanoma Institute Australia website.

The NSW Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research, Jullian Skinner (5th from the left) launched the Melanoma Genome Project, an ambitious two-year national research program that aims to identify the common gene mutation that lead to Melanoma. The Apex Foundation proudly supported this research