Understanding early melanoma metastasis and developing new targets for treatment

Source: Science Daily, June 2017

Early detection is particularly important in cutaneous melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer: with a thickness of little more than one millimetre, the tumour may begin to spread, sending its cells to colonise other organs. When this occurs, the prognosis is usually poor. Treatments have improved considerably, particularly regarding immunotherapy, but melanoma mortality remains very high. One of the important questions to be answered is how melanomas acquire this inherent potential to metastasize. A technique that makes it possible to follow in vivo and, for the first time, very early stages of melanoma progression in mice, is now allowing researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) to study the process in detail and has even led to the identification of a potential new drug target. The paper is published in the scientific journal, Nature.

The results of the work, which has involved an international team led by the researcher Marisol Soengas at the CNIO, are doubly relevant; according to Soengas: “We have been able to discover unknown mechanisms in the development of melanoma, and to identify new markers of metastasis that we have validated in samples from patients. These results open up new avenues for pharmacological treatments.”

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