Sci­en­tists find protein that reg­u­lates skin can­cer spread

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Sci­en­tists have pin­pointed a can­cer protein which con­trols the dis­ease’s spread from the skin to other or­gans, and pro­posed Wed­nes­day that block­ing it may be an ef­fec­tive treat­ment. Work­ing with mice ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered to de­velop hu­man skin can­cers, the team dis­cov­ered that the protein plays a key role pro­mot­ing-or in­hibit­ing-metas­ta­sis, the spread of can­cer from one area or or­gan to an­other.

Dubbed MIDKINE, the protein is se­creted by melanomas-the most se­ri­ous type of skin can­cer-be­fore trav­el­ling to a dif­fer­ent part of the mouse body to kick start can­cer for­ma­tion, they said. In sub­se­quent ob­ser­va­tions in hu­mans, high lev­els of MIDKINE in the lymph nodes of skin can­cer pa­tients were pre­dic­tive of “sig­nif­i­cantly worse” out­comes, the team re­ported in the sci­ence jour­nal Na­ture. This was the case even if there were no tu­mor cells in the lymph nodes.

“In MIDKINE we have found a pos­si­ble strat­egy that mer­its con­sid­er­a­tion for drug de­vel­op­ment,” said Marisol So­en­gas of the Span­ish Na­tional Can­cer Re­search Cen­tre in Madrid, a co-au­thor of the study. Early de­tec­tion is im­por­tant in melanoma. Af­ter it starts spread­ing, pa­tient prog­no­sis is usu­ally poor. It was long thought that melanoma pre­pares the or­gans it in­tends to col­o­nize by ac­ti­vat­ing the growth of fluid-trans­port­ing lymph ves­sels-first in and around the pri­mary tu­mor, then the sur­round­ing lymph nodes, and so on.

How­ever, re­mov­ing lymph nodes next to a melanoma tu­mor does not pre­vent metas­tases, mean­ing there is “some­thing miss­ing” in our un­der­stand­ing of the spread mech­a­nism, said the re­searchers. The new study of­fers a pos­si­ble an­swer. “When these tu­mors are ag­gres­sive, they act at a dis­tance much ear­lier than pre­vi­ously thought,” said the au­thors. MIDKINE trav­elled di­rectly to the new can­cer site ir­re­spec­tive of lymph ves­sel for­ma­tion around the orig­i­nal tu­mor.

When MIDKINE was in­hib­ited in mouse tu­mors, metas­ta­sis was blocked as well, said the team. “These re­sults in­di­cate a change of par­a­digm in the study of melanoma metas­ta­sis,” ac­cord­ing to So­en­gas. The team used spe­cial mice to track metas­ta­sis through a lu­mi­nes­cent protein that lights up when a new area of the body is af­fected by can­cer for­ma­tion. What is not known is whether MIDKINE is trans­ported in the blood, in lymph, or both.

In a com­ment, also pub­lished by Na­ture, Ayuko Hoshino and David Ly­den of the Weill Cor­nell Medicine, a univer­sity in New York, said the study pro­vided “much-needed in­sights” for the pre­dic­tion of metastatic risk. The work, they con­cluded, “might open a door to di­ag­nos­tic and ther­a­peu­tic strate­gies that aim to deal with metas­tases be­fore they have a chance to arise.”—AFP

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