Melanoma patient joins clinical trial to help others

As an avid collector of Six Million Dollar Man memorabilia, Stuart Chynoweth is no stranger to the idea of life improving after surgery. But since being diagnosed with melanoma in late 2022, Stuart has undergone a series of operations to rival the iconic Steve Austin.

Stuart’s melanoma journey began when his masseuse noticed a mole on the back of his knee that looked worrying. After knocking it and drawing blood, Stuart had a biopsy that confirmed it was a melanoma and a couple of weeks later he underwent surgery to remove the mole at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Stuart said he was shocked with the diagnosis but did his best to take it in his stride. “Melanoma certainly was not on my radar, so it came as a nasty surprise. My partner had been diagnosed with breast cancer, so after that emotional time I knew I just needed to get on with it, listen to the experts, and get the best treatment possible.”

Getting the best care while also contributing to melanoma research

Luckily for Stuart, the Royal Adelaide Hospital was a site for the Melanoma Margins Trial, MelMarT-II, which is investigating the optimal excision margin for stage II melanoma. Stuart didn’t hesitate to sign up for the clinical trial. 

“I jumped at the chance to take part in the trial. Here was an opportunity to not only get the best care but to also do my little bit to help others. Melanoma isn’t going away, so if I can contribute to this important research and improve treatment options for people diagnosed in the future, then that’s the least I can do.”

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Melanoma surgery is a delicate balance

Patients like Stuart who have stage II primary cutaneous melanoma – where the cancer cells have penetrated deeply into the skin but haven’t spread to other parts of the body – undergo surgery to remove the melanoma completely. For high-risk melanoma patients, their doctor’s decision to use either a 1cm or 2cm excision margin around the melanoma could impact their quality of life and survival.

A larger excision margin can lead to complex surgical reconstruction, poorer cosmetic appearance, post-operative complications, and impact on function. On the other hand, if the excision margin is too small, the melanoma might return or spread.

Clinical trial to find the answer and save lives

Currently there is no high-quality clinical trial evidence or consensus in the medical community about the optimal melanoma excision margin size for stage II melanoma. The evidence available suggests a 1cm margin is reasonable. The MelMarT-II trial will determine whether a 1cm or a 2 cm margin is best and provide certainty for melanoma patients and their doctors in deciding the most effective treatment.  

Led by Australian investigators and Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials, the MelMarT-II trial will study almost 3,000 patients across eight countries, including major coordinating trial centres in Australia, Europe, and North America. The results of this global effort will help determine the best surgical treatment for stage II melanoma, leading to better outcomes for melanoma patients in Australia and around the world.

More moles removed, but optimistic about the future

Stuart became MelMarT-II’s first South Australian participant, and he has found the experience to be far more pleasant than he could have hoped for.

“I know all my doctors’ names and they know mine, and they take a genuine interest in how I’m feeling – both physically and mentally. It’s really helped give me comfort that I’m in the best hands possible and they have made a very stressful situation much more manageable.” 

Stuart is still undergoing biopsies and has had more spots excised since his initial diagnosis. But despite that, he’s optimistic about the future. 

“I didn’t spend too much time in the sun growing up and was only sunburnt badly once in my life. So while I really didn’t expect to find myself going through all this, I’m grateful that I have such a professional and skilled team looking after me. I want to be around for my partner and kids, and being part of such an innovative clinical trial gives me hope that this will be the case.”

Learn more about the MelMarT-II trial.

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