In a landmark discovery, researchers at Tel Aviv University have unraveled the metastatic mechanism of melanoma, the most aggressive of all skin cancers. According to a paper published online on August 22, 2016 in Nature Cell Biology, the scientists discovered that before spreading to other organs, a melanoma tumor sends out tiny vesicles containing molecules of microRNA. These induce morphological changes in the dermis in preparation for receiving and transporting the cancer cells. The researchers also found chemical substances that can stop the process and are therefore promising drug candidates. "The threat of melanoma is not in the initial tumor that appears on the skin, but rather in its metastasis -- in the tumor cells sent off to colonize in vital organs like the brain, lungs, liver, and bones," said research leader Dr. Carmit Levy of the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at TAU's Sackler School of Medicine. "We have discovered how the cancer spreads to distant organs and found ways to stop the process before the metastatic stage." The TAU group worked in close collaboration with Professor Jörg D. Hoheisel and Laureen Sander at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Dr. Shoshi Greenberger at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer, Israel and Dr. Ronen Brenner at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. Lab research was led by Dr. Shani Dror of Dr. Levy's research group. Melanoma, the most aggressive and lethal type of skin cancer, causes the death of one person every 52 minutes according to data from the Skin Cancer Foundation, and the number of diagnosed cases has been on the rise for the past three decades. Despite a range of therapies developed over the years, there is still no full remedy for this life-threatening disease.
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