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Skin cancer hijacks the immune system

Monday February 4th, 2019

Invasive skin cancer releases molecules that reprogramme healthy immune cells, enabling the disease to spread, British researchers have reported.

It is hoped that the findings by Cancer Research UK, published in Cell, could lead to inhibiting drugs to help prevent the cancer returning following treatment.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London investigated cells from the edges of invasive melanomas in mice and human tumour samples, to look at the effects of the Myosin II protein they produce.

They found that high levels of Myosin II in these cells makes them more mobile and triggers the release of chemicals that reprogramme the immune system by hijacking the natural cancer-killing abilities of macrophages.

Researchers also found that the chemical interleukin 1A, which is released by Myosin II-rich cells, was important for making cancer cells more invasive.

When they blocked Myosin II activity with different drugs, the amount of interleukin 1A produced by melanoma cells in mice and human tumour samples was reduced.

Professor Vicky Sanz-Moreno, lead author from Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, said: “This study highlights how cancer cells interact with and influence their surrounding environment to grow and spread. Developing treatments that target the chemicals that alter the immune system could help to prevent the spread of the disease.

“By using therapeutic drugs that block either Myosin II activity or the release of interleukin 1A, we can make the tumour less invasive and slow its growth, making it easier to treat.”

Drugs that block Myosin II activity are already being used to treat other diseases, including glaucoma, and researchers are planning further lab studies to establish if drugs that block Myosin II could be combined with existing melanoma treatments.

Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and melanoma expert, said: “What this study shows is that we may be able to develop treatments to stop those remaining cells from spreading after surgery, helping patients to survive for longer.”

Regional Activation of Myosin II in Cancer Cells Drives Tumor Progression via a Secretory Cross-Talk with the Immune Microenvironment. Cell 31 January 2019

https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(18)31652-0

Tags: Cancer | Dermatology | UK News

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