Melanoma impacts more Australian teenagers and young adults than any other cancer. Dr James Wilmott, who has a young family of his own, has devoted his career to determining why these young Australians are susceptible to melanoma, and importantly, how to save them.
James Wilmott is part of the new generation of melanoma researchers, and was drawn to Melanoma Institute Australia by the direct link between clinical research and patient care. He knew this was an area in which he could really make a difference.
“Being a scientist, you don’t often see patients in your day to day work,” he explains. “I thought by working at Melanoma Institute Australia, where it brings together clinical research and basic science, I could see patients as well as do the cutting edge research.”
Dr Wilmott’s work focuses on why 15 to 39 year olds are being diagnosed with melanoma at a higher rate than any other cancer. Early results of whole genome sequencing of tumours from these patients show 90% of all mutations in a 16 year old patient are caused by the sun – a surprising result given the young age of the patient.
“It is surprising because it looks similar to what we see in adults… and the accumulation over a lifetime,” Dr Wilmott says. “They must have some sort of genetic abnormalities that make them more susceptible to UV damage. If we can pinpoint the genes that make them susceptible, and then find them in other young patients, we can target them with preventative measures to prevent them from getting melanoma in the first place.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in melanoma research. We’re making great inroads into melanoma care,” he said.
James’ is the latest in a series of emotive videos launched by Melanoma Institute Australia, showing the impact of melanoma on everyday Australians. Watch his story below and join him in the fight against melanoma by signing up for a Melanoma March event near you.