Benign or cancerous?

November 11, 2008

Research into a cancer that is on the rise in the UK is to be presented at the University of Leicester.

It will discuss new studies at Leicester into the differences between benign and cancerous moles.

Postgraduate researcher Dr Philip Da Forno of the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Studies will describe new advances in the fight against malignant melanoma at a Doctoral Inaugural Lecture to be given on 12 November.

Dr Da Forno has investigated the expression of a particular protein in the progress of the disease and the molecular differences between types of 'Spitzoid' melanocytic tumours and malignant melanoma

He said: "Malignant melanoma is a common cancer of the skin that is increasing in incidence in the United Kingdom. Early cancers are easily cured but once the disease has spread to other sites in the body, there is no effective treatment and the outcome is often fatal.

"I will discuss our current understanding of how melanocytic lesions progress from benign tumours or small, easily curable cancers, to advanced, frequently fatal cancers. This will include a description of my investigation into expression of the protein Wnt5a during tumour progression and its effect on patient survival."

The diagnosis of melanoma is achieved via microscopic examination of lesional tissue. In the majority of cases this is straightforward and, having made the diagnosis of malignancy, the histopathologist applies a number of criteria to determine which tumours are likely to have been cured by excision and which are at risk of spreading elsewhere and killing the patient. Unfortunately, the behaviour of the tumour cannot always be predicted with accuracy and some patients with seemingly indolent tumours have rapidly progressive disease.

In some instances histological assessment is complicated further by a difficulty in determining whether the tumour is a benign 'mole' or a malignant melanoma. Nowhere is this more acute than in the setting of Spitzoid tumours where the differential diagnosis lies between a benign mole called a Spitz naevus and malignant melanoma

Dr Da Forno will also describe his investigation into the molecular differences between types of Spitzoid lesions and malignant melanoma. This study aimed to determine whether Spitz naevi share molecular features with common benign moles and malignant melanoma, and whether they are capable of progressing to become malignant melanomas.

The Molecular Pathology of Progression in Melanocytic Tumours takes place on Wednesday 12th November at 5:30 pm in the Frank and Katherine May lecture theatre, University of Leicester. It is open to the public and free.

For more information, please contact Dr Da Forno :


Philip Da Forno graduated from the University of Leicester Medical School in 2000 and commenced training in Histopathology in 2001. In 2003 he passed his MRCPath part 1 examination and in 2004 commenced work for his MD. The MD was submitted in 2007 and since that time he has been working towards his MRCPath part 2 examinations which he will sit in October 2008. His work on melanocytic tumours has been published in Clinical Cancer Research and the British Journal of Dermatology.

Dr. Philip Da Forno is the winner of the School of Medicine Lauder Prize for best MD. The prize will be awarded at the end of his lecture.

University of Leicester

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