The diagnostic tool Merlin Assay identifies melanoma (skin cancer) patients for whom postponing sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) surgery would be at minimal risk, allowing physicians to better triage care and allocate resources. Around 80% of melanoma patients that undergo an SLNB surgery to check for metastases, have no detectable disease spread, making the surgery redundant. The Merlin Assay uses characteristics from the primary tumour and the patient’s age to calculate if a patient’s risk of having metastases is low so that the surgery can be safely avoided. Reducing up to 42% of these surgeries, the Merlin Assay enables hospitals to efficiently direct their surgical resources to patients with the highest need and in case of metastases, prioritize immediate steps on their care path. The consortium consists of 8 Dutch institutes and is led by the Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam (EMC).
Prof. Dr Kees Verhoef, Head of Oncology – and Gastrointestinal Surgery, EMC said: “Reducing the backlog of regular care and maintaining it, is of utmost importance while we are preparing for a possible new COVID peak. Tools that better direct the use of healthcare resources, will make us better equipped to provide adequate cancer care for individual patients at the moment they need it”.
Dr Dirk Grunhagen, Oncological Surgeon, EMC said: “Better allocation of resources and faster turnaround time is not the only benefits, using the Merlin Assay in routine clinical practice. The overall complication rate associated with the surgery is between 5-10%. The Merlin Assay may save the low-risk patient group surgical complications and the subsequent care needed.”
Dharminder Chahal, CEO, SkylineDx that developed the Merlin Assay says: “It has been a proud moment to experience how different stakeholders can come together and be innovative in designing and implementing solutions when it is most needed. We are very excited that we were able to contribute by accelerating access to our diagnostic innovation. With the start of this study, another important step towards personalized cancer treatment has been taken.”