Philanthropy transforms research at Victorian Melanoma Service
The Victorian Melanoma Service (VMS) at The Alfred was founded 25 years ago as the state’s first and only comprehensive multidisciplinary service for people with melanoma. Our team is globally renowned for its expertise in enhancing detection and improving patient outcomes in Australia whereone person is diagnosed with melanoma every half an hour*.
Neville and Di Bertalli know first-hand the devastating impacts of melanoma. Twenty years ago Di tragically lost her brother to melanoma while Neville also lost his mother to the disease when she was just 45. These experiences spurred the couple 15 years ago to donate to the VMS, a contribution which has had significant impacts on driving melanoma research outcomes ever since.
Thanks to the generosity of The Bertalli Family Foundation, the VMS was able to develop a translational database including 150 data items to what is now more than 11,000 patients. This data has enabled research to answer many questions about melanoma susceptibility, detection, progression and treatment and the results have generated many publications. The database continues to grow and develop capacity to provide critical insights and inform future research at the VMS.
Founder and pioneer of the VMS, Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM said the Bertalli’s generosity allowed him to step away from his ‘day job’ as Head of Dermatology at The Alfred and concentrate his efforts on melanoma – a decision which has recently seen Prof Kelly receive a Member of the Order of Australia award for services to medicine through the management and treatment of melanoma.
‘By helping The Alfred link and expand our existing melanoma database the Bertalli grant was instrumental to our research efforts to continually improve our knowledge of the disease and the success of treatment,’ Prof Kelly said.
Di and Neville also generously funded two research scholarships (Dr Hugh Roberts and Dr Jonathon Ng) which later translated to advances in patient care. Dr Hugh Roberts undertook important research demonstrating the large contribution to melanoma deaths from a rapidly growing melanoma, nodular melanoma. This work drew attention to the importance of detecting this unusual melanoma with a different presentation that had previously been misdiagnosed and overlooked.
Dr Jonathon Ng’s research looked at the accuracy of different biopsy methods for diagnosis. The research evaluated the outcomes of 2500 melanoma biopsies and demonstrated pitfalls with some partial methods of biopsy leading to failure to detect the presence of melanoma. Recent publications from the VMS on melanoma biopsy have shed further light on the implications of different biopsy methods, demonstrating the ongoing impact Di and Neville’s support continues to have 15 years later.
The VMS is now one of Australia’s largest multidisciplinary treatment services for melanoma caring for more than 1,500 Victorians each year. In 2020, The Alfred announced plans to expand on the service by building a world-class treatment and research centre – The Victorian Melanoma Centre. We look forward to sharing more information on this exciting project throughout 2021.
Image credit: Anna Carlile