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New Findings Elaborate on How Melanoma Spreads

Scientists have made a breakthrough discovery related to how melanoma — the rarest and most aggressive type of skin cancer — spreads. In a recent study published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg presented findings that describe the process by which cancerous melanoma tumors activate the cellular mechanisms that enable cancerous cells to travel. Moreover, they identified two chemicals that can potentially inhibit the process, thereby stopping the cancerous cells from spreading. The research findings could have a big impact on treating melanoma.

Gene Signals and Cellular Transport

Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer because of its ability to metastasize, or spread, to other areas of the body. Before the cancer begins to spread, the melanoma tumor releases vesicles that contain genetic code. This code has the capacity to change the way skin cells function. Once this gene interference begins, cancerous cells can easily move from the original tumor site, making it very difficult to control the course of the cancer.

Chemicals Inhibitors and the Potential for New Drug Therapies for Melanoma

If melanoma is detected early, it is often possible to excise the cancerous growth before it metastasizes. But if the cancer begins to spread, it can do so rapidly, threatening other organs such as the liver, brains, and lungs. After it has metastasized, chemotherapy is necessary.

Backed with a greater understanding of the mechanisms that trigger uncontrolled migration and growth of the cancer, the international team of scientists was also able to identify two chemicals that can mitigate the ability of the vesicles to change cellular behavior. The first, SB202190, does so by interfering with the vesicles’ ability to reach new cells; the second, U0126, prevents a cell from undergoing a genetic modification if confronted with the gene altering vesicle.

The results of the study open up the possibilities of developing drug therapies that could stop the cancer before it has a chance to threaten other vital organs, making a successful treatment easier.

Risk factors for melanoma include family history and cumulative exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. If you notice a suspicious looking mole, contact a professional to have it evaluated.