JERUSALEM, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- An Israeli-led study has found a way to prevent melanoma cancer from metastasizing to the brain, Tel Aviv University (TAU) in central Israel said on Tuesday.
In the study, published in the journal JCI Insight, TAU researchers and their colleagues from the United States and Portugal deciphered the mechanism that enables melanoma to spread to the brain and managed to delay the spread by 60 to 80 percent using existing treatments.
Up to 90 percent of advanced-stage melanoma patients develop brain metastases despite the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain. Such a phenomenon baffles researchers, but the TAU-led study said it offered an answer to the problem.
They found that the cancer cells can hijack a group of cells called astrocytes, which are located in the spinal cord and brain, to create local inflammation that increases the permeability through the blood-brain barrier.
Using an antibody, a synthetic molecule, and genetic engineering in lab models, the team was able to change the interaction process between the cancer cells and astrocytes and thus inhibited the spread of metastases.
Both the antibody and the molecule used by the team are primarily intended to treat sclerosis, diabetes, liver fibrosis, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as serve as a biomarker for other cancer types.
Therefore, these treatments are considered safe, and may be repurposed for melanoma, the researchers concluded.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. When diagnosed and treated quickly, melanoma is usually curable. However, it becomes very difficult to cure and can even be fatal once it has spread deeper into the skin or other parts of the body.