A highlight for the Australian medical community, with Professor Georgina Long AO and Professor Richard Scolyer AO jointly named the 2024 Australians of the Year. 

The pair were honoured for their transformative contributions to melanoma treatment - an achievement of international significance.

Professors Long and Scolyer, the co-medical directors of Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), have been instrumental in converting advanced melanoma, dubbed Australia's national cancer, from a terminal disease to one that is curable for over half of the patients. 

Their innovative approach in immunotherapy, which leverages a patient’s own immune system, has been pivotal in this transformation. 

“Our goal is now to cure the other 50 per cent and, in doing so, hopefully help other cancers as well,” Prof Long says.

The duo's contribution extends beyond clinical advancements. They are also renowned as advocates for sun-safe behaviour and melanoma prevention. 

In their acceptance address, Prof Long emphasised the need to shift Australia’s tanning culture. 

“Our bronzed Aussie culture is actually killing us,” she remarked.

“So we call on advertisers and social media influencers - stop glamourising tanning, or using it to sell or advertise or entertai.

“Our mission is zero deaths from melanoma. To reach it, in addition to prevention, we need a targeted screening program and greater investment in research.”

Prof Scolyer's personal journey adds a profound dimension to their work. Diagnosed with incurable grade 4 brain cancer in June 2023, he became the world’s first patient to undergo pre-surgery combination immunotherapy based on their melanoma research. 

His decision to participate in experimental treatment has not only advanced brain cancer understanding but also garnered public attention through his documentation of the treatment process.

Prof Long, with a focus on targeted therapies and immuno-oncology, has led significant clinical trials and laboratory research at MIA. She holds an impressive publication record and numerous awards, including the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences Outstanding Female Research Medal 2021. 

Prof Scolyer, providing a clinical consultation service for pigmented lesions and leading a translational melanoma research laboratory, has co-authored over 800 peer-reviewed publications and books.