Media event date: 
20 June 2021
Date published: 
21 June 2021
Media type: 
Media release
General public

A study involving 15,000 Australians which aims to develop a next-generation, standardised diagnosis for melanoma is one of 30 clinical trials and cohort studies to be funded through the Morrison Government’s $74 million investment to find better ways to prevent, detect and treat disease.

The $3.2 million melanoma cohort study, led by Associate Professor Victoria Mar from Monash University and Alfred Health, will be the first in the world to document on such a large scale the whole skin surface of participants with histopathology images and other patient details.

The Morrison Government’s investment will support 20 clinical trials and 10 cohort studies for up to five years and will fill important gaps in knowledge about the causes of disease and test the effectiveness of new approaches to disease prevention, detection and treatment.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the trial would help to discover more effective diagnosis options thousands of Australians who are tested for skin cancer each year.

“Skin cancer costs the Australian healthcare system more than $1 billion annually. Australia has the highest rate of melanoma, the deadliest form, for which there is currently no standardised diagnosis,” Minister Hunt said.

“This study will use cutting-edge, total-body 3D imaging machines across metropolitan and regional Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, with the research team working to develop next-generation diagnostic and prognostic algorithms for early detection of melanoma and skin cancer.”

“Clinical trials and cohort studies are crucial sources of evidence for the improvement of health and healthcare. Each of these projects has the potential to improve health outcomes here in Australia and across the globe.”

Awarded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and commencing in 2021, the funded projects will investigate a range of health issues.

This includes:

  • A trial led by University of Melbourne/Orygen’s Associate Professor Simon Rice will determine the effectiveness of the online social media-based intervention Affinity to reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviours in young people seeking care for major depressive disorder.
  • A clinical trial in Papua New Guinea led by Dr Holger Unger of the Menzies School of Health Research to assess the advantages of combining the anti-malarial treatments sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine to clear malaria among pregnant women while reducing the adverse outcomes such as miscarriage and stillbirth (fetal loss), low birth weight, and neonatal death.
  • A clinical trial led by Associate Professor Leanne Sakzewski from the University of Queensland will include 150 children with cerebral palsy (CP) to compare a new intervention, ACTIVE STRIDES -CP, with usual care.

By testing new healthcare interventions in volunteers under controlled conditions, clinical trials underpin decisions on whether to use a new diagnostic, drug, vaccine or procedure. Cohort studies uncover risk factors and causes of disease by following groups of people over time, sometimes many years.

A full list of grant recipients is below and available on NHMRC’s website:

Former ministers: