A PhD Scholar funded by Australian Rotary Health (ARH) is looking at non-invasive early detection techniques to differentiate between the common mole and melanoma.

Rachel Teh from the University of Sydney was awarded the Rotary Clubs of Chelsea & Mt Druitt & Val Henry ‘Rob Henry and George Malone’ PhD Scholarship this year to look at scarless biopsy for early diagnosis of melanoma.

“Current early detection techniques are inefficient and have a high level of uncertainty because only less than 30% of these moles will turn malignant,” Rachel said.

“Currently, there are no markers that can determine when or which mole will become malignant, and this has led to an unnecessarily high number of excisions or biopsies performed, resulting in an excess of expenses and unnecessary stress for the patient.”

Rachel’s PhD project will focus on looking at potential differences in protein content between regular moles and early melanoma to detect any changes that lead to the development of melanoma before the tumour becomes invasive.

“We will uncover any potential markers that will help detect melanoma early. Additionally, this information will tell us about the mechanisms involved by which melanoma develops.”

Using this information, Rachel will also develop a non-invasive diagnostic technique that will eliminate the need for unnecessary biopsies.

“This non-invasive technique is a scarless biopsy that uses adhesive tape to gently remove the top layer of skin, the stratum corneum, which is full of proteins. Using protein data analysis tools and techniques we will be able to find biomarker signatures that will indicate the need for early intervention.”

Currently, the most efficient method of prevention and detection of melanoma is excision of suspicious moles, but Rachel has hope that there is a better approach.

“Surgery can be unreasonable for patients with large or many moles, or when they are in undesirable locations to excise such as the face. This is costly in many ways for both the health system and the patients.”

“This research can help cater treatments to the individual as well eliminating the need for unnecessary and invasive diagnostic excisions by replacing it with a scarless non-invasive technique.”

We wish Rachel all the best with her research.


Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or jessica@arh.org.au