Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital chosen for melanoma research

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has been chosen to take part in an international research study that could lead to reduced side-effects following surgery for skin cancer.

Last year NNUH became the first hospital in the region to offer sentinel node biopsy for patients with newly diagnosed melanoma, to check at an early stage whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The new study will test whether removing the sentinel node – the nearest lymph node to the tumour – is enough to remove all traces of cancer without the need for further surgery. Around 20 patients per year are expected to take part.

Currently, if the sentinel node is found to be affected, the routine option is to remove all the lymph nodes in the area of the tumour which can potentially lead to troublesome swelling and fluid retention, called lymphoedema, in the arm or leg.

“The evidence so far from studies around the world is that further invasive surgery may not be necessary,” says plastic surgeon Marc Moncrieff , who is leading the study at NNUH. “If this is proved to be the case we could see a dramatic reduction in lymphoedema following surgery to the lymph nodes and traditional methods for treating melanoma could be consigned to the history books.”

The research study, known as MSLT-II, is being overseen by the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica and is funded by the American Government. Several other major centres of international renown are involved, such as the Sydney Melanoma Unit in Australia and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in the US.

“We are only the second skin tumour centre in the UK to be invited to take part in the MSLT-II study after careful scrutiny (the other is in London),” says Marc. “It is a great endorsement of the standard of care that we provide at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for melanoma patients.”

Sentinel node biopsy involves close collaboration between the skin cancer teams at NNUH, the nuclear medicine department, where patients are scanned, and the pathologists who test the lymph nodes for minute traces of cancer.

“It’s because of this close teamwork that we are leading the way in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer,” says Marc.

Wednesday 20th of January 2010 10:00:59 AM