Australian researchers on Friday said they have found a new therapeutic target aimed at melanoma skin cancer, pointing to better understanding of how the disease spreads and more effective treatments.
The primary cause of death in melanoma patients is metastasis, the process in which cancer spreads to other areas of the body.
While there have been recent advances in targeted and immune-based treatments, advanced stages of the condition remain a clinical challenge with a particularly poor prognosis, the Centenary Institute, medical research facility, said in a statement.
Australia and New Zealand have the world’s highest rates of melanoma, with more than 14,000 new cases estimated to have occurred this year alone, according to the institute.
The institute’s scientists, in collaboration with 11 other Australian research institutions, identified a specific protein called “RAB27A” as a key driver of the cancer spread.
That occurred via the secretion of tiny bubble-like pro-invasive structures which are expelled from cells. “Silencing” the expression of the protein in turn led to reduced metastasis, according the researchers.
The latest findings were reported in the International Journal of Cancer medical publication.
The discovery provides a new way for researchers to better target and treat melanoma, the study’s lead author Guo Dajiang said.
“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,” he said.
However, WHO said that the incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades.
Currently, between two and three million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year.
One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer and, according to Skin Cancer Foundation Statistics, one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
As ozone levels are depleted, the atmosphere loses more and more of its protective filter function and more solar UV radiation reaches the Earth’s surface.
It is estimated that a 10 per cent decrease in ozone levels will result in an additional 300,000 non-melanoma and 4,500 melanoma skin cancer cases.
The global incidence of melanoma continues to increase – however, the main factors that predispose to the development of melanoma seem to be connected with recreational exposure to the sun and a history of sunburn.