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Friday 28th October 2016

New melanoma research

20th December 2006

20072006_cells1.jpgBritish researchers have discovered that the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, cheats chemotherapy by disguising itself as a normal cell.

The Marie Curie Research Institute study found that melanoma cells can change shape, spread around the body and then remain dormant for years before developing a new tumour.   This discovery could help scientists develop new ways to fight the disease which kills more that 1,700 people each year in the UK.

Melanoma is a cancer of melanocytes, the pigment cells that help give skin its colour.  It is notoriously hard to treat and is particularly dangerous as it has the ability to spread to other parts of the body. Invasive melanoma cancer cells develop in response to conditions inside the tumour.  The researchers found that once cells have spread into other areas of the body, their new environment determines whether they remain dormant, or whether they start dividing again to form new tumours.  Once they have spread, the outlook for patients is bleak.

The Marie Curie research team say they have discovered how the cell manages to transform itself and get around the body so effectively.  The researchers found that in some cases cancer cells in the original tumour can change shape and stop dividing rapidly thus taking on the appearance of a normal skin pigment cell.  This has a double effect; the new round shape makes it easier for the cell to leave the tumour and squeeze through small gaps to find new places to grow and the effects of chemotherapy are blocked as the treatment only targets abnormal, fast-dividing cells.

The team hopes it might be possible to create future treatments based on their research.


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