Scientists and clinicians at Newcastle University have developed a new test that predicts the spread or return of the most deadly form of skin cancer.
The AMBLor® test is based on new understanding of the mechanism of skin cancer growth which they have just published.
It identifies a patient’s 'true risk' of disease progression and provides more accurate information about the risk of the disease spreading.
The technology is currently available via a referral service, but the team hope it will soon be adopted by the NHS.
Professor Penny Lovat, who is behind the research told ITV News Tyne Tees: "The major things here are that it reduces patient anxiety. If you're genuinely low risk, people want to know that.
"It saves the NHS money in terms of resources, clinical time, follow up time and it reduces waiting list times."
How does the test work?
Professor Penny Lovat explains: “Like mortar and bricks holding together a wall, AMBRA1, Loricrin and Claudin 1 are all proteins key to maintaining the integrity of the upper layer of the skin.
"When these proteins are lost, gaps develop – like the mortar crumbling away in the wall.
"This allows the tumour to spread and ultimately ulcerate which we know is a process associated with higher risk tumours.
“Our new understanding of this biological mechanism underpins the test we have available.”
Currently, primary tumours are removed by surgery and pathologists study the biopsy under the microscope to determine the stage the skin cancer is at and the risk of it spreading.
Even if defined as low risk, the patient is followed up in clinic for as long as five years – and it is these patients that the test is able to identify.
Phil Brady, Chief Operating Officer at the British Skin Foundation called Professor Penny Lovat's research 'groundbreaking' and said: "The development of the AMBLor test can alleviate stress and anxiety for patients caused by this potentially deadly skin cancer, whilst increasing efficiency and reducing costs to the NHS.”