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Australian Researchers Launch Melanoma Genome Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Officials in Australia today launched a two-year, A$5.5 million (US$5.7 million) initiative to identify the common genetic mutations that cause melanoma.

The Australian Melanoma Genome Project brings together researchers from the Melanoma Institute Australia, the University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and NSW Health Pathology, and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research to identify new methods of diagnosing and treating melanoma based on the genetic characteristics of individual melanomas.

In the first stage of the project, a library of 500 melanoma tumor samples collected during the past 20 years will be used to identify mutations, the University of Sydney said. Most of the tumor samples will come from the Melanoma Institute Australia BioSpecimen Bank.

In the second stage, researchers will investigate how common the mutations found in the first stage are and when they are involved in the growth and spread of melanoma. By identifying genetic mutations, a foundation of diagnostic tests and treatments can be established, the University of Sydney said.

As part of the funding for the project, the New South Wales Government is providing A$500,000. Bioplatforms Australia, with funding from the Commonwealth Government, has committed A$1.5 million to support the project through access to its national network of genomics sequencing and bioinformatics facilities, and the Cancer Council NSW has provided a A$500,000 grant.

The Cancer Institute NSW and the National Health and Medical Research Council are supporting the initiative with program grants to the investigators.

John Thompson, executive director of Melanoma Institute Australia, said in a statement that the Melanoma Genome Project "will build on Australia's international leadership in this area and move the world's medical knowledge close to being able to prevent and cure melanoma. It will lead to better diagnostic tests and new drugs which can specifically target the mutations that are causing this particular cancer."

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