Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv have found a new way of detecting metastatic melanoma at an early stage, which could prevent the spread of the tumour cells to the brain. The discovery could have a huge impact in saving thousands of lives.
Metastatic melanoma is the most dangerous of the skin cancers; when this deadly cancer reaches the brain, the rate of survival is very low.
The study from Tel Aviv University has identified a more advanced way of exposing brain micro metastases a long time before they transform into malignant and inoperable growths. According to the scientists, micro-tumour cells hijack astroliogis, which is the brain’s automatic response to an injury, supporting metastatic growth.
The university has stated that with this new expertise, it may be possible to detect brain cancer in its early stages.
The study was headed by Dr. Neta Erez, a member of the Department of Pathology at Tel Aviv University.
Together with her team, Erez used mouse models to inspect the spontaneous metastasis of melanoma inside the brain. She and her partners looked into detail at every stage of metastasis, including the removal of the primary tumour, the initial discovery of melanoma in the skin and several other aspects.
As imaging techniques used today are unable to discover micro metastases, melanoma patients whose initial melanoma was removed, may believe that there is nothing wrong for months or years following the initial procedure. However, when the removal of the primary tumour is complete, micro metastatic cells wander across the body to the brain and other organs and are not able to be found at the micro level. Soon after, these cells learn to interact with cells in their new microenvironment in the brain. At first, these new cells are hostile towards them. Sadly, a tumour eventually appears and it is then too late for treatment.
Erez labels the time of the initial growth of the dispersed micro metastatic cells in multiple organs, the “black box” of metastasis. Dr. Erez said: “We believe that we have found the tools to characterise this black box. And this is key to developing therapeutic approaches that may prevent brain metastatic relapse”.