Buck Off Melanoma founder Jan Brown and Leita Bussey at the Buck Off Melanoma Walk for a Cure at Hansen Park in 2017.
Buck Off Melanoma founder Jan Brown and Leita Bussey at the Buck Off Melanoma Walk for a Cure at Hansen Park in 2017.

Bucking top effort: Fundraising leads to medical paper

THE MOST precious thing you can get for someone diagnosed with melanoma is a cure says Buck Off Melanoma’s founder, Jan Brown, and thanks to her incredible fundraising efforts, it may just be a little closer.

Ms Brown’s grassroots foundation has surpassed $75,000, which has helped the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute buy new equipment, computers and now resulted in a study, set to be published in print in medical journal Melanoma Research.

Ms Brown said she knew she had to do something when her son was diagnosed with aggressive melanoma in 2014.

Some people fundraise for a holiday for their loved one, but that wasn’t her approach.

“The most precious thing you can get is the knowledge that a treatment might be available. That’s what they want,” she said.

Her son, a bull rider whose connections with the local bull riding community inspired the foundation’s name, is still receiving treatment.

“We’ll jump, buck and kick until we buck it off our backs,” she said.

The study to be published reports finding cells that our immune system can recognise and explores the genetic causes of melanoma susceptibility and response to treatment.

Research officer Dr Peter Johansson, who works in the oncogenomics laboratory at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said Ms Brown had supported the group for more than five years, allowing them to progress their work identifying and characterising novel cancer genes linked to melanoma.

“Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and each year more than 12,000 Australians are diagnosed with invasive melanoma,” he said.

“Some individuals are at much higher risk of developing melanoma because they carry an inherited mutation in one of many key cancer genes.

“Jan and the Buck Off Melanoma team have raised more than $75,000 for the Institute that has helped in a number of ways including the purchase of a vital PCR machine, which is essential for validating mutations found in melanoma samples.

“We hope that will allow us to identify the genes that play a role in melanoma, and develop better ways of diagnosing and treating melanoma in the future.

“We are so grateful to Jan and the Buck Off Melanoma community for their ongoing efforts and inspiration.”

Originally starting after a suggestion from a friend to “just sell stubby coolers”, Ms Brown took the advice and started small, growing rapidly thanks to the support of the local community.

“I’ve got so much to thank Bowen for,” she said.

The funds raised have allowed the centre to purchase three new computers and a new freezer to store important specimens.

The findings will also be reported at an international conference on drug resistance and drug toxicity, in Scotland later this year.

Ms Brown says she hopes her work will give people diagnosed with melanoma hope and give every Australian the best chance of survival, with early detection.

“We’ve lost a lot of young men over the last few years,” she said.

“Melanoma kills more than any other cancer between the ages of 20-40, and Queensland has one of the highest occurrences.”

If you’d like to help, the Grand View Hotel will be holding a raffle with funds raised going to Buck Off Melanoma, on Friday, February 7, at 5pm.

If you can’t make it to the Grand View, Ms Brown says there are plenty of other options on how to donate to the cause.

“We also run a sausage sizzle at Home Hardware on the last Saturday of every month. Or if you’re buying sunscreen, UltraProtect based in Caloundra donates $1 from every bottle with our logo sold,” she said.