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Spread of human melanoma cells in mice correlates with clinical outcomes in patients
Date:11/7/2012

DALLAS Nov. 7, 2012 UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists led by Dr. Sean Morrison, director of the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, have developed an innovative model for predicting the progression of skin cancer in patients.

In a new study published today in Science Translational Medicine, Stage III human melanoma cells from 20 patients were implanted into specially selected mice with compromised immune systems. Using this xenograft model, in which tissue is transplanted from one species to another, the institute's team observed reproducible differences in the rate at which the cancer spread in the mice, or metastasized, that correlated with clinical outcomes in patients.

Dr. Morrison said human melanomas that metastasized efficiently in the mice eventually progressed to advanced, Stage IV disease in patients spreading to distant organs, such as the brain, liver, or lungs. When the melanoma did not metastasize efficiently in the mice, it also did not form distant metastases in patients.

This xenograft model will make it possible to study the mechanisms that regulate disease progression and distant metastasis of melanomas in patients. The researchers said they hope that their system will lead to new prognostic markers that identify patients at highest risk of disease progression as well as new therapies.

"We believe this is the only time in cancer biology that anyone has developed a xenograft model in which disease progression correlates with what happens in the patient," said Dr. Morrison, senior author of the investigation and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UT Southwestern. "The highly immune-compromised state of the mice makes it possible to observe the metastasis of human melanomas, and to study intrinsic differences among melanomas in their metastatic potential."

Previous studies of cancer metastasis were limited by a lack of workable models
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Contact: Jeff Carlson
jeffrey.carlton@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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