One person dies of melanoma every hour, making it one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. However, a new study from Tel Aviv University may help to change this. Recently, a team of researchers identified the specific way this skin cancer spreads to other organs in the body, a finding that may lead to better treatments for the deadly condition.

Before spreading to other organs, a melanoma tumor sends out vesicles, or tiny sacs, containing molecules of microRNA. These go on to induce changes in preparation of receiving and transporting the cancer cells from the skin to other important body organs. According to a recent statement, not only has the Tel Aviv team identified how the cancer is able to spread, but they are also beginning to identify chemicals that can prevent this mechanism.

For the study, now published online in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the researchers began by examining pathology samples taken from melanoma patients in the early stages, before the invasive stage where the cancer has penetrated deeper into the skin and spread to other areas of the body. Upon doing this, the team noticed specific changes in the overall environment of the skin, particularly in the dermis, or innermost layer. They soon discovered what caused these changes and how to block the mechanism.

The findings could have major implications, as according to Levy, the research shows that the “threat of melanoma is not in the initial tumor that appears on the skin but rather in its metastasis,” or its ability to spread to further parts of the body.

“It then became clear to us that by blocking the vesicles, we might be able to stop the disease altogether," explained lead researcher Dr. Carmit Levy in a recent statement.

Now, the team is working using the chemical substances that proved successful in stopping this metastasis to create promising drug candidates.

Source: Dror S, Sander L, Schwartz H, et al. Melanoma miRNA trafficking controls tumour primary niche formation. Nature Cell Biology . 2016

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