Two-pronged Therapeutic Approach Required to Treat Skin Cancer Melanoma
Melanoma is the third most deadliest type of skin cancer. In 2009, according to the National Cancer Institute, there were 68,720 new cases of this cancer and 8,658 people ended up giving their lives in the United States. Until now, researchers have been looking at the tumor cells of melanoma like any other cancer tumor cell. But, latest research studies carried out by scientists at The Wistar Institute, have found out how the malignant melanoma cells can self-renew themselves. Their understanding about the growth of these cells has lead to a new level of understanding in treating this disease. The results of their findings are published in the May 14, 2010 issue of the reputed journal Cell. This article tries to gain further insight on this topic.
Melanoma is not found to follow the normal process of tumor development. Generally, a tumor develops with the help of a single malignant “mother cell”. This cell not only reproduces to give birth to new mother cells but also can split to give birth to a large group of tumor cells. The researcher found that melanoma cells have a completely new biology. Every cell is found to be “a mother cell” in its own right and has unique stem cell like potential.
Using this ability, it can vary its role based on the requirement of the tumor and can easily get adapted to the nature of its environment. So, the present treatment technique of targeting the main tumor is not sufficient to treat this cancer. Leaving even a single malignant melanoma cell can bring back the cancer.
Knowledge Gained from Research:
A protein JARIDIB is required for tumor growth. If the gene related to this protein’s production in the cells is modified, then its production ceases. In case of melanoma, there are two types of cells. There are firstly, cells producing this protein which can stop production by turning off the related gene. And secondly, there are cells which do not produce JARIDIB protein but can turn on the inactive gene.
This is why conventional treatment techniques are ineffective against melanoma. These cells allow the tumour to remain latent and grow unnoticed.
It is for this reason, that the treatment technique for melanoma should be two-pronged. It should involve targeting the tumor and also the JARIDIB protein producing and non-producing cells. It is because fellow researchers of this study from the Regensburg University Medical Center, Germany, have gained more insight on the protein producing and non-producing cells.
The JARIDIB protein producing cells grow slowly and are unaffected by most of the conventional cancer therapies. They have the ability to easily get converted to fast growing protein non-producing cells which can quickly replenish the tumor. In this way, every melanoma cell can be a source of bringing back a destroyed tumour back to its active state.
The researchers are not generalizing this mechanism of melanoma cells as is the case with other types of cancer tumour. They are considering melanoma cancer cells to be a special case as of now.