The extraordinary contribution of six distinguished clinicians and researchers in the field of melanoma is being celebrated at a gala event in February.
Professors John Thompson AO, Richard “Rick” Kefford AM, Stan McCarthy AO and Peter Hersey, Associate Professor Roger Uren and Doctor Kenneth Lee, have transformed the diagnosis, treatment and management of melanoma during their long and remarkable careers.
Conjoint Medical Director of Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and Senior Staff Specialist in Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Pathology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Professor Richard Scolyer, said each of the six brought a different skill set to the table, creating a truly multi-disciplinary approach to melanoma that has changed clinical practice and saved lives in Australia and around the world.
“All of these people have done extraordinary things and the world owes them a debt of gratitude,” Professor Scolyer said.
MIA Conjoint Medical Director Professor Georgina Long said: “As a cohort, they transformed both the prevention, diagnoses and management of melanoma and how the research world viewed melanoma. For example, one significant area of research is in the successful development of novel treatments to make melanoma a chronic rather than a terminal disease.”
Melanoma is a form of cancer that develops in the skin’s pigment cells. It is the third most common cancer in Australia, and Australia and New Zealand have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.
Individually and collectively, the six have made key discoveries and transformed global melanoma patient care, including the development of therapies, procedures and diagnostic tests that have become clinical practice worldwide, introducing novel treatments in patients with advanced melanoma and exploring targeted treatments and new immunotherapies.
Professor Thompson has long been a world leader in melanoma research. He pioneered the novel technique of isolated limb infusion with cytotoxic agents for melanoma, a simpler, less costly form of treatment than conventional isolated limb perfusion, but one that is equally effective. A former liver transplant surgeon, Professor Thompson is the author of more than 700 peer-reviewed articles. He stepped down as Executive Director of MIA in 2016 after 18 years in the position and plans to retire from clinical work at the end of this year.
Professor Kefford’s research has played a seminal role in revealing the genetics of melanoma. He has authored more than 300 journal publications, chapters and books. He has been an investigator on more than 50 clinical trials exploring new immunotherapies to modify the actions of the immune system. He was named Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year in the 2017 Cancer Institute NSW Premier Awards. Professor Kefford is winding down his clinical work although he will continue his research projects for a few more years.
Respected plastic surgeon Dr Lee specialised in Head and Neck Cancer Surgery and free flap reconstruction. He developed an interest for micro surgical reconstruction for patients following tumour excision, an expertise highly valuable in the management of melanoma. He retired in December 2017 after more than 30 years at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Nuclear medicine physician Dr Roger Uren is renowned for the development of lymphatic mapping in the management of patients with melanoma. His pioneering use of lymphoscintigraphy shed important new light on lymphatic drainage pathways and was adapted worldwide. He recently retired from clinical practice.
Professor Hersey is generally recognised as a pioneer of immunotherapy for melanoma in Australia and in focusing on properties of melanoma cells that make them resistant to therapies. He has authored over 340 peer reviewed publications on melanoma and has been involved in conduct of over 50 clinical trials in melanoma. He has finished up clinical practice but continues to conduct research in the twilight of his career.
Known as the “guru” of pathology in Australia, Professor Stan McCarthy has dedicated more than 50 years to the public health system as a senior staff specialist and histopathologist, firstly at Sydney Hospital and later at RPA. He is considered a world authority on melanoma pathology and although he retired in January 2018, he will continue to lend his considerable expertise to difficult cases into the future.