Melanoma is devastating on many fronts: rates are rising dramatically among young people, it is deadly if not caught early, and from a biological standpoint, the disease tends to adapt to even the most modern therapies, known as VEGF inhibitors. University of Rochester researchers, however, made an important discovery about proteins that underlie and stimulate the disease, opening the door for a more targeted treatment in the future.
This month in the journal Cancer Research, Lei Xu, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, proposed that a receptor called GPR56 which mostly has been studied in the context of brain formation -- has an important role in cancer progression.
Xu and colleagues believe they are the first to show the biological mechanisms of how GPR56 relates to the growth and spread of melanoma, and might even be responsible for triggering one of the lethal processes of cancer progression, known as angiogenesis.
"We are very excited about this work because not only did we find an important new factor in melanoma, but we have also shown the signaling pathways through which these G-protein coupled receptors could impede cancer cell growth," Xu said. "Perturbing these pathways could potentially lead to more effective treatments for malignant melanoma."
Melanoma killed an estimated 8,700 people in the United States in 2010, and in the last 25 years the incidence has been increasing to the point that it is now the most common form of cancer in young adults 25 to 29, and the second most common cancer among people in their teens and early 20s.
If diagnosed at an early stage the survival rate is 99 percent; however, the survival rate falls to 15 percent for people with advanced melanoma. One of the challenges is relapse. Even when melanoma is successfully controlled for a significant period of time, the disease can recur and act more aggressively
|Contact: Leslie Orr|
University of Rochester Medical Center