$1 million grant to Rhode Island hospital for melanoma screening training program

Rhode Island Hospital dermatologist Martin Weinstock, MD, PhD, has received a $1 million, 2-year Team Science Award grant from the Melanoma Research Alliance to serve as principal investigator to develop a training program for primary care physicians to improve melanoma screening in primary care. The goal is to develop a web-based training module that will lead to earlier detection of melanoma and ultimately reduce the number of melanoma deaths by half.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 68,720 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the United States this year. While melanoma accounts for only about five percent of all skin cancer cases, it has by far a much higher mortality rate than the more common types.

Weinstock, who is also a professor of dermatology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, says, "Conventional education programs have stabilized mortality rates, however, an increasing body of evidence indicates that effective early detection is our best hope for cutting melanoma deaths by at least half in the near future." He continues, "We need to change our methods to get a substantial reduction in deaths."

He notes that knowledge and skills for melanoma screening remain low in the primary care area and performance of thorough skin self-examinations also remains low. The grant from the Melanoma Research Alliance will allow Weinstock and other researchers to develop a new training program that will target these issues. He says, "Through this grant, we are now able to develop an early detection training program that is web-based for widespread use and grounded in the realities of primary care delivery. We believe the program we are developing will allow a quantum leap in interactivity compared to prior efforts in melanoma screening."

The training will also incorporate the use of dermoscopy, the use of a specialized microscope to examine skin lesions, into the realm of primary care, something that is rarely used today despite its proven ability to improve accuracy of examinations.

Weinstock, who is also a physician with University Dermatology, adds, "We've developed a diverse team from multiple institutions with expertise and experience in the early detection of melanoma to develop medical education for cancer prevention, interventions with a variety of clinicians, screening and web-based instruction.

Once the module is developed, Weinstock and the researchers will work with primary care physicians in institutions within a cancer research network beginning in Detroit and California. The module will be tested so that a standardized, effective training program can then be rolled out to primary care physicians nationally.

"Clearly, our goal is to reduce deaths from melanoma. We believe that primary care physicians are our best defense and, with the right training, this goal can become reality."

www.melanomaresearchalliance.org and www.rhodeislandhospital.org

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