Findings by Australian researchers reveal a promising new therapeutic response to melanoma skin cancer. A statement on Friday from the team behind the study said that their approach could lead to a better understanding of the disease, its mechanism of spreading, and, ultimately, to more effective treatments.
The research bears special significance for the Australian community, as Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. According to the Centenary Institute, an Australian medical research facility, an estimated 14,000 new cases have occurred within this year alone.
The primary cause of death in melanoma patients is metastasis, which is the process wherein cancer spreads to other areas of the body. When no longer localized, the cancer becomes much more difficult to treat. Though there have been recent advances in treatments which take targeted and immune-based approaches, patients with advanced stages of the condition still face a particularly poor prognosis and the disease remains a clinical challenge.
Researchers from the Centenary Institute, in collaboration with 11 other Australian research institutes, were able to identify a specific protein, RAB27A, as the key driver of the spread of cancer. Through the protein, tiny bubble-like pro-invasive structures are secreted and expelled from cells. Researchers were successfully able to develop a method of “silencing” the expression of RAB27A, which in turn led to reduced metastasis.
“From our findings, we propose RAB27A is a novel prognostic factor, which means it could provide clinicians with a new way to determine a melanoma patient’s future health outcome,” said the study’s lead Author Guo Dajiang.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Cancer.