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Find out about the latest UK research and clinical trials looking at melanoma skin cancer.

Research into the causes of melanoma


Researchers are looking into the genetic changes that cause skin cancer. They are collecting samples of tissue and blood from people diagnosed with melanoma and non melanoma skin cancer of the head and neck. They will use these samples to identify changes in genes that may have caused the cancer, and to identify how the body's immune system responds to the cancer.

A few people are more at risk of developing melanoma than other people, because they have inherited a high risk faulty gene from a relative. Scientists recently discovered one of these genes, called the p16 gene or CDKN2A. They have been running a long term study to find out more about how genes and your surroundings can affect your risk of developing melanoma.

Research into tests for melanoma

Researchers are looking at tests to improve diagnosing melanoma including:

  • blood tests to look for circulating melanoma cells
  • improving MRI scans

Research into treatment for melanoma

Biological therapy

Biological therapies are drugs that change the way that cells work. They can boost the body’s immune system to fight off or kill cancer cells, or they can also block the signals that tell cells to grow.

Research is looking at how well biological therapies work:

  • on their own or combined with other biological therapies for advanced melanoma
  • combined with other treatment, such as chemotherapy
  • for children and young people
  • for melanoma in mucosal tissue, such as anal or vaginal melanomas

There are different types of biological therapies. For melanoma, researchers are looking at:

  • monoclonal antibodies, such as pembrolizumab
  • cancer growth blockers, such as PLX3397
  • MEK inhibitors, including selumetinib
  • immunotherapy, including interferon


Vaccines might help your immune system to kill the melanoma cells. Many phase 3 trials have looked at vaccines. These have had disappointing results. But researchers continue to look at different types of vaccines including talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC) which uses a form of the cold sore virus.

Last reviewed: 
22 Jan 2016
  • New drugs in melanoma: It's a whole new world
    A M M Eggermont and C Robert
    European Journal of Cancer. 47 (2011) pp 2150–2157

  • Systematic Review of Medical Treatment in Melanoma: Current Status and Future Prospects
    C Garbre and others
    The Oncologist, 2011: 16:5–24.

  • Melanoma vaccines: developments over the past 10 years
    O Klein and others
    Expert reviews. June 2011, Vol. 10, No. 6, Pages 853–873

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