Home  >  Research  >  Labs  >  Cancer Program  >  MELANOMA DISCOVERY

RESEARCH OVERVIEW

Melanoma is a disease that develops when pigment cells called melanocytes contract changes (mutations) in the genetic material (DNA). These changes result in uncontrolled growth and the formation of a melanoma tumour. A leading cause of mutations in skin melanocytes is UV light from sun exposure. Since fair skin individuals do not have a natural protection against UV damage, Australia and New Zealand has the most cases of skin melanoma per capita in the world.

If melanoma is excised early the prognosis can be excellent, but if some of the melanoma cells have spread (metastasised) to distant sites in the body then the prognosis has historically been dismal. However, research into genetics and immunology has brought forward two types of therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy, which in some patients can be curative. Unfortunately, not all patients respond or have the correct mutations to be treated with these new therapies. One group of patients which are particularly bad off are those where the melanoma arises in the eye, as opposed to the skin where most melanoma develops from.

Professor Nilsson’s group aims to identify new treatment options for melanoma patients based on translational and clinical research, with a special interest in eye (or uveal) melanoma. Focus lies on furthering the understanding of the genetics of melanoma and creating humanised animal models of metastatic skin and uveal melanoma (PDX) for use in translational research. A major interest is also to see the discoveries translated into investigator-initiated clinical trials. In Sweden, Professor Nilsson manages the translational effort of the SCANDIUM and the PEMDAC clinical trials for uveal melanoma patients. The aim is to also develop new therapies for patients with melanoma in WA.

Professor Nilsson’s Melanoma Discovery team is also involved with research into pancreatic cancer. The team makes patient-derived mouse models (PDX, mouse avatars) from surgical biopsies of patients with pancreatic cancer. A reason why this work is relevant to the Perkins activities is that pancreatic cancer metastasises to the liver, just like uveal melanoma. The aim is to understand why liver metastases of uveal melanoma and pancreatic cancer are so hard to treat, even with immunotherapy.

Professor Jonas Nilsson

Professor Jonas Nilsson

Melanoma Discovery (and inaugural Perkins Chair of Melanoma Discovery)

Read more

LATEST NEWS

‘Super-charged’ immune cells in promising new treatment for melanoma

December – and the start of summer – is readily welcomed by most West Australians. But along with our enviable outdoor lifestyle and ample sunshine is one far from desirable reality: melanoma. Melanoma is currently the third most diagnosed cancer in Australia and is one of the most common cancers…

Read More

Perkins secures biobanking grants to answer important questions in future research

The McGowan Government recently announced that the Harry Perkins Institute will receive two of the 16 grants totalling more than $1.5 million to support Western Australian biobanks. Congratulations to both Professor Grant Morahan who is Head of the Perkins' Centre for Diabetes Research, and Dr Louise Winteringham who leads the…

Read More

NHMRC funding for DEFINER to identify “the right drug for the right patient” in liver cancer

The Harry Perkins Institute's Oncofetal Ecosystem Laboratory, established early in 2021, has received its first NHMRC Ideas Grant in the most recent grants round. This collaborative project run by the Perkins and Curtin University will investigate a new immunotherapy treatment for the most common type of primary liver cancer, hepatocellular…

Read More

I'M LOOKING FOR

RESEARCH PROJECTS

TEAM MEMBERS

PUBLICATIONS