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They discover a treatment to stop the metastasis of melanoma in its initial stages

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A team of Spanish researchers has discovered a mechanism involved in melanoma metastasis -one of the most aggressive skin cancer tumors- and a treatment that might be effective in blocking it in its earliest stageswhen there is a better chance of stopping that progression.

They have shown it in scientific animal models of the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), which have proven how this critical process occurs in the progression of the disease and how blocking it reduces metastasis, and the results of their work are published in the journal ‘Nature Cancer’.

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CNIO researchers Héctor Peinado -head of the Microenvironment and Metastasis group- and Susana García Silva have described how this process occurs: the so-called exosomes -nanovesicles expelled by the tumors themselves- travel and lodge in the sentinel node -a lymph node where metastasis initially occurs-, and from there they remotely prepare the environment conducive to promoting metastasis. A molecule (called NGFR) directs this whole process, but blocking it significantly reduces metastases in animal models, as has been found by researchers, who have indicated that this block is achieved by another molecule (THX-B) that It is already being tested to treat other pathologies, which could speed up its possible use also for the treatment of tumors.

Héctor Peinado explained that the molecule with which they have managed to stop metastasis in mice is already being tested in pre-clinical models -also with animals- for the treatment of diabetic retinopathies -a complication of diabetes that affects vision- and has reported that his team has already patented its use in oncology. “We are developing its use in melanoma, evaluating its efficiency and pharmacodynamics in pre-clinical mouse models,” said the researcher, and pointed out that the objective they are working with is to authorize its use in oncology so that it can be combine with other current therapies.

Can it be effective for other types of cancer?

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But could that molecule be equally effective for try to stop metastasis in other cancers? The researcher has asserted that yes, because there are several tumor types in which these molecules are overexpressed (the NGFRs), so the use of this inhibitor could also be applicable to them. Knowing how tumors are capable of manipulating their exterior in order to advance is one of the great questions that Peinado’s team tries to answer, has underlined the National Center for Cancer Research, which has recalled that for decades scientists have been focused on studying the intrinsic behavior of tumors to fight them, but not everything that surrounds them.

Unlike other types of skin cancers, melanoma is one of the most aggressive tumors, and it can lead to metastasis from the first moments, when the lesion is still very small, and since there are no early markers or prediction of the disease, new treatments and early and accurate diagnosis are especially relevant – the CNIO highlighted – prognosis of patients.

This research center has specified that metastasis is responsible for 90% of cancer deaths and that in most cases it is detected too late.

Exosomes were discovered more than 30 years ago, but they have not been studied in depth until a few years ago, and Héctor Peinado himself discovered in a laboratory in the United States in 2012 how tumor cells release them and transfer biological information to the microenvironment that surrounds to educate it and thus promote metastasis, even before the tumor cells themselves travel through the body.

As in other types of tumors, melanoma cells travel and spread through the body mainly through the bloodstream and the lymphatic system. Once the role that a molecule (NGFR) played in this process and how an inhibitor (THX-B) stops metastasis in animal models, the researchers consider that the way is opened for a possible new treatment to combat it, a treatment – the CNIO has highlighted – that would become one of the first to deal with metastasis in its earliest stages.

The research has been funded, among others, by the Ministry of Science, the European Fund for Regional Development, the Spanish Association Against Cancer, the Ramón Areces Foundation, the “la Caixa” Foundation, the Community of Madrid, the National Institutes of Health of the United States, the American Consortium Starr Cancer, the Melanoma Research Alliance (United States) and the Feldstein Foundation.

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