Study reveals trigger that may speed melanoma growth

March 28, 2012
Study reveals trigger that may speed melanoma growth
Researchers identified molecule in tumors that suppresses immune system.

(HealthDay) -- Growth of the deadly skin cancer melanoma may be triggered by the immune system turning on itself, according to a new study that also identified the mechanism that causes this to happen.

Melanoma accounts for only about 5 percent of skin cancers, but is the cause of most skin cancer deaths, statistics indicate. The disease is often curable in its early stages but is difficult to treat once it has spread invasively, the authors of the new study noted.

The study, published in the current edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine, focused on a specific immune-inhibiting molecule called B7-H1 in melanoma tumors.

In patients with tumors that expressed B7-H1, suppression of the inflammatory immune response sped the growth and increased the aggressiveness of their tumors, the researchers from Yale School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions found.

The investigators also found that tumor cells somehow use a component of the immune system itself (interferon gamma) to turn on B7-H1 and suppress the immune system.

"We were surprised to find that can not only escape or hide from infiltrating immune cells, but can go on the attack -- using as a weapon against the immune system," lead author Dr. Lieping Chen, a professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine and director of the program at Yale Cancer Center, said in a Yale news release.

This mechanism may be responsible for and tumor growth in up to 40 percent of melanoma patients, Chen said. The finding may make it possible to develop therapies that block this immune-suppressing ability, he added.

Explore further: Using Viagra to combat malignant melanoma

More information: The American Cancer Society has more about melanoma.

Related Stories

Using Viagra to combat malignant melanoma

November 8, 2011

Many tumors cause chronic inflammations, which, in their turn, suppress specific attacks against the tumor by the immune system. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center and Medical Faculty Mannheim at Heidelberg University ...

Researchers building melanoma vaccine to combat skin cancer

March 19, 2012

Mayo Clinic researchers have trained mouse immune systems to eradicate skin cancer from within, using a genetic combination of human DNA from melanoma cells and a cousin of the rabies virus. The strategy, called cancer immunotherapy, ...

Recommended for you

Researchers thwart cancer cells by triggering 'virus alert'

August 27, 2015

Working with human cancer cell lines and mice, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and elsewhere have found a way to trigger a type of immune system "virus alert" that may one day boost cancer patients' ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.