Researchers at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center knew they were on to something big when they embarked on a series of studies involving the effects of specific genetic material on tumors. The research team from the NYU Langone Medical Center was after all familiar with the potential of genetic material–specifically the non-coding variety–for tumor treatment.
But probably what not everyone realized was that their research would form the bulk of one of the largest studies on the effects of cell signaling molecules on melanoma cancer cells. In the study, two bits of genetic material were identified in melanoma tumors, both of which showed tremendous potential for halting the spread of the cancer–a significant finding indeed, and one that would have long-term implications on future approaches to treating the disease.
In a report published in the online Journal of the National Cancer Institute on February 11, researchers revealed that the identification of microRNAs–particularly miR-382 and miR-516b–could be crucial for the future targeting of melanoma cells that have a high likelihood of spreading and causing the demise of the patient.
The results of the cell signaling study have a number of potentially valuable implications for melanoma research and related studies. In the wake of the initial cell signaling study, the same team has already embarked on subsequent studies into microRNAs that may have similar value with regard to identifying melanoma cases in which there is a high likelihood of the disease spreading to the brain. These incidents have been linked with almost 50% of melanoma-related fatalities.
The Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center team analyzed 800 microRNAs that seemed to suppress cancer growth. These cell signaling molecules were found in tumor cells of 92 male and female melanoma patients, 48 of whom had rapid cancer progression. All the patients agreed to donate the samples to the NYU Langone research database.
The senior investigator of the study, Eva Hernando, PhD, said that their research revealed the cancer suppressing effects of two types of microRNA in melanoma cases. This effect is less apparent in primary tumors of an aggressive nature. According to Dr. Hernando, the next step for the team is to show how the results gathered in such tests could be used to identify patients that have a higher chance of the melanoma progressing aggressively. Doctors could also use the information to determine whether early aggressive treatment will improve melanoma patients’ chances for survival.
Melanoma is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. In the United States alone, 73, 870 new cases of melanoma are expected to occur in 2015. This figure is culled from data gathered by the American Cancer Society, which also estimates that almost 9,940 melanoma-related deaths will occur in the same time frame.
Perhaps the most promising realizations to come out of all this is the possibility that the effect of microRNAs with regard to suppressing melanoma tumor growth will apply to other types of cancer as well. When that happens, the global medical community may just have a potent new weapon in the fight against cancer.