SYDNEY: 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 on Friday.
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.