New recruit joins battle against skin cancer at Sheffield hospital

Clinical Fellow, Dr Shobha Silva starts her vital skin cancer research at Weston Park Hospital
Clinical Fellow, Dr Shobha Silva starts her vital skin cancer research at Weston Park Hospital
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Weston Park Hospital’s Cancer Charity has recruited a research expert to develop a new simple blood test for melanoma skin cancer patients.

Dr Shobna Silva will conduct research into a test, which could be used in the future to identify patients who have suffered a relapse.

Fortunately, over two-thirds of melanoma patients are cured of their cancer, but up to 20 per cent experience metastatic relapse, where the melanoma returns and spreads.

At present, on average these patients survive less than a year but new drugs including immunotherapies have recently been developed and have shown great promise.

Results from Dr Silva’s study will hopefully determine whether a blood test can identify patients who have relapsed as early as possible so they can be treated more quickly, potentially improving their lifespan.

Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity fundraising Manager, Helen Gentle said: “It is absolutely crucial that we invest in the next generation of cancer researchers who will take us one step closer to our ultimate goal of beating cancer.

“The cancer charity is very proud to fund this vital post and contribute to a ground-breaking local study, with the possibility of benefiting cancer patients all over the world.”

The research study will involve taking blood tests from patients who have been diagnosed with melanoma. Their family members are also being invited to take part by providing blood samples too.

Dr Silva said: “What is particularly inspirational and heartwarming about this clinical study is that while the patients recruited understand that they would have no clinical benefits from being involved personally, they are willing to take part solely to help improve the outcomes for the next generation of melanoma patients.”

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with around 13,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year. It is also becoming more common in the UK over time, caused partly by increased exposure to UV light from the sun and sunbeds. More than 2,000 people die every year in the UK from melanoma.

Dr Silva said: “The more we can do to prevent primary cases of skin cancer the better. I hope that the public will recognise the importance of staying safe in the sun this summer by using a good sun screen, with both UVA and UVB protection , wearing protective clothing and avoiding the hottest times of the day – 11am to 3pm – where at all possible.

“It’s also very important that we regularly check our skin for any changes and visit your GP promptly if you are worried about any moles or skin changes.”

Funding for Dr Silva’s post coincides with the launch of a new campaign by the Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, which asks supporters to ‘Take a Closer Look’ into the vital cancer research projects being undertaken at the hospital.

To support the campaign, visit http://www.wphcc.org.uk/research