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Meeting of minds for melanoma

By Mindo - 14th May 2023

Irish Melanoma

Irish Melanoma Forum, 11th Annual Scientific Meeting, University College Dublin, 26 May 2023

Co-chairs of the Irish Melanoma Forum Prof Shirley Potter and Prof Des Tobin discuss this year’s line-up of national and international experts in melanoma treatment and research

This year’s Irish Melanoma Forum features a fascinating line-up of national and international speakers, each of whom is a renowned expert in their field. The presentations cover a range of topics, from different types of melanomas (cutaneous, ocular, etc) to recent research breakthroughs, and much more.

Co-chairs of the Irish Melanoma Forum (IMF) are Prof Shirley Potter, Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, and Associate Clinical Professor at the School of Medicine, UCD; and Prof Desmond Tobin, Full Professor of Dermatological Science at UCD School of Medicine and Director of the Charles Institute of Dermatology. They spoke with the Medical Independent (MI) about the upcoming conference.

Surge in interest

The Irish Melanoma Forum was initially set up about a decade ago on an informal basis, but gradually grew into a formal meeting as the idea gained momentum due to a surge in interest and emerging research in all things melanoma, they explained. “All of this has come together for the benefit of patient care,” said Prof Potter. Last year’s Forum had an attendance of 240 people, split between in-person and virtual attendances, and 63 abstracts for poster presentations, as well as strong industry representation. “The idea was that the research element could go hand-in-hand with clinical aspects of melanoma management,” Prof Tobin commented. Prof Potter added: “Our annual meeting  has become multidisciplinary with a research and clinical focus, but we have also expanded to include a parallel nursing session as well as input from patient advocate groups.”

Prof Shirley Potter

The amount of medical school training in skin conditions that GP trainees receive has been acknowledged as sub-optimal, given the high incidence of skin-related presentations in their clinics. The HSE estimates that in Ireland, 54 per cent of the population is affected by skin disease annually, with up to 33 per cent of people at any one time having a condition that would benefit from medical care. An estimated 15-to-20 per cent of GP consultations relate specifically to the skin at any given time, adding importance to events such as the IMF annual meeting.

Prof Des Tobin

Prof Tobin commented: “In the UCD School of Medicine, dermatology, unfortunately, is not a mandatory element in the final exam,” he told MI, unlike at some other medical schools in the country. “There is a concern that GPs may be going out there with less dermatology awareness. One of the drivers behind our online Professional Certificate in Clinical Dermatology course is to upskill GPs in dermatology, especially in areas like recognising pigmented lesions, where we hope that GPs would be vigilant and proactive in referring anything suspicious, including what may look like a melanoma, even if the lesion is not pigmented.”

Educational value

Prof Potter also commented on the educational value of the conference: “Everybody is welcome to attend the Forum, including GPs,” she told MI. “There is something for everybody and perhaps in future Forums, we could include some elements that specifically have a GP focus. We are keen to include all specialties that might have an interest in melanoma and skin cancer. For example, pigmented lesions are a particular focus for GPs at the moment because the NCCP are recommending a specific referral pathway for pigmented lesions. They have designed a dedicated referral form to direct patients into dedicated pigmented lesion clinics that have a high turnover, similar to the breast cancer referral pathways.”

In addition to clinical practice, there are gaps in research knowledge that the Forum can help to address, Prof Tobin pointed out. “This involves skin in general, but also pigmentation, as indigenous Irish skin has a high susceptibility to skin cancer of various types, including melanoma,” said Prof Tobin. “One of the advantages of having the IMF at O’Reilly Hall in UCD is that we also encourage local PhD and Masters students to attend, because we really need capacity building in pigmentation sciences in Ireland – we are way behind what’s happening in other European countries.”

Both Prof Potter and Prof Tobin noted the quality of presenters; apart from home-grown expertise, the Forum will feature expert speakers from Australia and the UK. The Forum, they pointed out, has now been moved from December to May to coincide with Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which features multiple focus points related to a number of areas of skin cancer.

You can register for the Irish Melanoma Forum by visiting www.conferencediary.ie and entering the registration code IMF23.

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