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Skin cancer discoveries offer hope

Wed May 13th, 2009

Scientists in the US have discovered a "superfamily" of molecules that are linked to the development and spread of the most dangerous form for skin cancer, melanoma.

Professor Rakesh Singh and his team at the University of Nebraska, USA, looked at a group of molecules called chemokines.

In tests, they increased the action of two chemokine receptor molecules, CXCR1 and CXCR2, in human melanoma cells implanted into mice. These bind to the chemokine known as CXCL-8.

Results showed that CXCR1 and CXCR2 encouraged the development and growth of tumour cells. And when the receptor molecules were boosted in healthy cells, tumours began to form.

In the British Journal of Cancer, the team explain that chemokines and their receptor molecules control the movement of many types of cells in the body. CXCR1 and CXCR2 in particular control the migration of tumour cells in the body.

Previous studies have also implicated CXCL-8, CXCR1 and CXCR2 in tumour progression, including forming blood vessels to support the tumour.

Professor Singh commented: "These results suggest that a superfamily of molecules controls whether a melanoma advances and spreads to other parts of the body - when it becomes difficult to treat.

"There is a possibility these molecules could be used in future therapy for melanoma - something that doesn't exist at the moment."

Dr Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK added: "This important research helps us understand how malignant melanoma progresses and spreads.

"Malignant melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and a life threatening disease which could be prevented if people protect themselves in the sun." She added: "Sun beds are just as dangerous."

Singh, R. K. et al. CXCR1 and CXCr2 enhances human melanoma tumourigenesis, growth and invasion. The British Journal of Cancer, published online May 12, 2009.

Tags: UK News | North America | Cancer | Dermatology

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