A study looking at melanoma skin cancer cells in the bloodstream

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Skin cancer





This study is looking at whether doctors can find cancer cells in the bloodstream of patients with melanoma. Cancer spreads when cells break from the first cancer growth and travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to another part of the body. Cancer cells that are travelling in the bloodstream are called circulating tumour cells (CTCs). Scientists have known for a long time that cells do this, but until recently they have not been able to study them very easily.

In some cancers, it is possible to find and count circulating tumour cells. Researchers have found that the higher the number of CTCs, the poorer the outcome. And the more CTCS are reduced after treatment, the better the outcome.

Doctors want to see if counting CTCs will work for melanoma. They also want to look for features in these cells that may help them develop more suitable treatment. And learn more about how cancer cells spread. If successful, doctors may be able to use a simple blood test rather than a tissue sample (biopsy) to diagnose melanoma earlier, or find out what was happening with the cancer once diagnosed.

The main aim of this study is to count and study circulating cancer cells in people with melanoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes Open a glossary item, or to another part of the body. You will not have any direct benefit from taking part in this study, and it is unlikely to change your treatment plan in any way. But the results of the study will be used to help people with melanoma in the future.

Who can enter

You can enter this study if you have melanoma skin cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes (stage 3 melanoma), or to another part of your body (stage 4 melanoma).

You cannot enter this study if

  • You have already started treatment for your melanoma
  • You have another cancer which may make it difficult for the doctors to pick out any circulating melanoma cells in your blood samples

Trial design

This study will collect samples from 200 people. The samples you give for the study depend on your situation.

Everyone will give a blood sample (about 2 tablespoons) when they join the study.

If you have had a biopsy to diagnose your melanoma, the team will ask for permission to study a sample of this. If you have any other abnormal areas on your skin (lesions), the team will ask if they can take a biopsy of these too. You do not have to give these extra samples if you don’t want to. You can still take part in the study.

If you are due to have chemotherapy or biological therapy to treat your melanoma, you will give some other blood samples during your course of treatment.

If you are having surgery for melanoma, you will give a sample of blood before and after this. And give the team permission to use a tissue sample from the operation for their research.

The team will ask for your permission to store these samples so they can use them both now and in the future for research into melanoma.

With your permission, the team will also gather some information from your medical notes. They will record information including about

  • Your background, for example your date of birth, gender and ethnic background
  • Your family history of cancer and any risk factors for melanoma
  • Any other conditions you may have
  • Blood test results
  • Your cancer and it’s treatment

After the study, the team will check your notes regularly to see how you are getting on.

Hospital visits

You will give blood and any tissue samples during hospital visits already planned as part of your treatment. So you will not need to make any extra visits to take part in this study.

Side effects

If you agree to have the extra skin biopsies, these may be uncomfortable, and you may have a scar.

You may have a small bruise where you had your blood test.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Paul Lorigan

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust
University of Manchester

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle - 5925

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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