Scientists fight spread of melanoma

By Jamieson Salter

A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology shows scientists from the Centenary Institute have developed a new therapeutic strategy that could help the fight against advanced-stage melanoma.

Scientists were able to reduce the migration and invasive properties of melanoma cells, by inhibiting the interaction between two proteins involved in intracellular trafficking (the process by which molecules cross the membranes of living cells).

Lead study author and Centenary Institute PhD researcher Dajiang Guo said there was a significant reduction in the spread of cancer by blocking the ability of melanophilin to bind with the protein RAB27A (one of the critical regulators of intracellular transport).

“We have known for some time that the proteins melanophilin and RAB27A bind together and that this process could be crucial to help melanoma cells spread around the body,” he said.

“By disrupting the binding of these two proteins with a recently developed blocking compound (BMD-20), we were able to successfully restrict the melanoma cell movement and invasion.

“What our findings suggest is that the development of new drugs that can specifically target melanophilin-RAB27A interactions are a promising target for advanced melanoma treatment.”

Centenary Institute senior study author Shweta Tikoo said there was a need for therapeutic strategies for advanced melanoma.

“Melanoma has one of the highest mortality rates in the western world with the disease accounting for approximately 1500 deaths in Australia every year,” Dr Tikoo said.

“It is also the most common form of cancer affecting young Australians, those individuals aged from 15 to 39 years old.

“Although we have witnessed a surge in new treatment options for advanced melanoma patients, especially involving immunotherapy (treatment that boosts the body’s immune system to fight cancer), issues such as limited effectiveness, drug resistance and drug toxicity persist.

“Understanding and targeting the actual mechanisms underpinning melanoma progression and invasion is, therefore, vital for the development of new treatment strategies.”