New strategies against melanoma, a cancer in which prevention is key

Spanish researchers have identified new ways to attack this tumor: inhibit the proteins that help it evade the body’s natural defenses and prevent its spread to other organs. Its incidence is increasing in our country.

Photomontage of sentinel lymph node structure (red) and associated lymphangiogenesis (green) in response to circulating exosomes (gray). / Microenvironment and Metastasis Group of the CNIO.

Melanoma is the most aggressive skin cancer. According to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), more than 7,000 new cases of skin melanoma are diagnosed in Spain each year. The incidence increases.

Its main risk factor is sun exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) light damages the DNA of exposed cells, generating mutations that can turn the cells into tumors.

Therefore, skin cancer is a type of tumor in which prevention is especially effective. It is important to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and use creams with high protection. You must also be alert for new moles, and for changes in existing ones (size, color, shape, bleeding). Early diagnosis multiplies the chances of cure.

The Melanoma Group of the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), led by Marisol Soengas, discovered a few years ago some ‘anti-defense’ proteins of the cells of this skin cancer, and are now exploring strategies to block them.Meanwhile, the Microenvironment and Metastasis Group, led by Héctor Peinado, is working on what could become one of the first treatments against its spread in its initial stages.

See metastases before they occur

To cure it, we must understand the origin and evolution of this tumor, and its ability to metastasize, that is, invade other organs. The Soengas team has managed to visualize how melanoma begins and progresses from very early stages.

One of the experimental models they have developed is the “MetAlert” system, to visualize how melanoma cells prepare dissemination routes before metastases occur. This makes it possible to identify new genes and new therapies that “turn the tumor on or off,” explains Soengas.

“With MetAlert we identified a new prometastatic protein, MIDKINE, which also has immunosuppressive effects,” he points out. “We are now developing MIDKINE inhibitors through several collaborations at the CNIO: with the Monoclonal Antibodies Unit, led by Giovanna Roncador, and the Experimental Therapies Program, directed by Joaquín Pastor.”

This research group is also interested in other proteins that degenerate the body’s defenses and, instead of attacking the tumor, promote its development.

Analysis of NGFR expression (purple) in metastatic melanoma tumor cells in the lymph node (brown). / Microenvironment and Metastasis Group of the CNIO.

Prevent the metastasis from nesting

For its part, the team led by Peinado has discovered what could become one of the first treatments against melanoma metastasis in its initial stages.

The researchers discovered a molecule that prepares the ‘nest’ in the organ in which the melanoma will reproduce, and they verified that, by blocking it, metastasis is reduced in animal models. In addition, they have found a non-toxic compound that prevents the action of this molecule, called NGFR.

Now they are preparing “a publication that presents the results of its use in combination with immunotherapy to treat melanoma,” says Peinado.

Source: CNIO and agencia Sinc

Rights: Creative Commons.

Nuevas estrategias contra el melanoma, un cáncer en el que prevenir es clave (