A major role of the Newcastle Melanoma Unit is to conduct research into the causes, prevention, early detection and treatment of melanoma.

This research role was initiated by Professor Robert Burton when the Newcastle Melanoma Unit (NMU) was established in 1981 and carried on since 1984 by Conjoint Professor in Oncology Peter Hersey.

The Hunter Melanoma Foundation has been a vital supporter of these activities in several areas.

1. Support of a melanoma database

Details of almost all (90%) people who develop melanoma in this region are recorded on the NMU’s database. This has been strongly supported by HMF including upgrades of the software involved. Several important research findings have been made from analysis of this data, eg. these studies were the first to show that patients who presented with thick melanoma were mostly in older age groups and particularly men. This resulted in identification of this group as targets for early detection programs by various cancer societies. It also led to several studies on the role of photography in early detection of melanoma by Dr Hanrahan and colleagues.

2. Laboratory Equipment

Professor Hersey has a world renowned research program involving clinical and laboratory studies. The HMF has been a strong supporter of these studies by purchase of essential equipment such as computers, incubators, miscellaneous storage freezers and a state of the art microscope resulting in the melanoma laboratory being one of the best equipped laboratories in Newcastle.

The work of his team has accented the biology of melanoma cells and investigated interventional techniques that might inhibit growth. This work has resulted in over 100 publications in Internationally recognised journals.

3. Research Training Positions

The HMF has been instrumental in helping to assist training of staff in management of melanoma by part funding a Surgical Fellow and provision of a PhD Scholarship. The latter was held by Dr Kristen Radford who has since gone on to establish her own laboratory, at the Brisbane Mater Hospital.

4. Clinical Trials

The NMU is a key centre involved in many national and international studies. Our trial on a melanoma vaccine was supported in part by the HMF.

5. Education

Also, the HMF has supported many community orientated programs to increase awareness of melanoma and its early detection. It has also provided funding for updating of melanoma diagnosis & treatment for general practitioners and training facilities for medical students.