January 04, 2020
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$1 million grants fund research into melanoma metastasis

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American Cancer Society and Melanoma Research Alliance provided two $1 million grants that will fund research focused on metastasis of melanoma and other cancer types.

“This is a serious area of unmet medical need. In fact, almost 40% of patients with metastatic melanoma already have detectible brains metastases at diagnosis,” Michael Kaplan, president and CEO of Melanoma Research Alliance, said in a press release. “Further research is desperately needed to better understand the unique biological features that facilitate the spread of melanoma to the brain and support the growth of metastatic cells once there. Moreover, identifying markers that predict metastatic spread as well as potential new treatments for brain metastases are essential for improving outcomes for patients.”

The grants — which will provide funding over 3 years — will go to teams led by Michael A. Davies, MD, PhD, chairman of the department of melanoma oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Eva M. Hernando-Monge, PhD, associate professor in the department of pathology at New York University School of Medicine.

Davies and colleagues will explore whether molecular and immune features of individual melanomas can predict which patients will develop central nervous system metastases. Investigators also will evaluate an experimental treatment for patients with brain metastases from melanoma, breast cancer, lung cancer and other malignancies.

Hernando and colleagues will assess the role of amyloid beta in brain metastasis.

Researchers from her lab previously analyzed the protein content of melanoma that spread to the brain. They found elevated rates of amyloid processing protein, which plays a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The investigators will investigate how the protein influences melanoma growth within the brain microenvironment. They also will study the therapeutic potential of targeting amyloid processing protein using antibodies and compounds that have been tested for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and whether the protein is necessary for brain metastasis of other tumors, including lung or breast cancers.

“For [patients with melanoma], the spread of metastases to the lungs, liver, and brain is a serious and often deadly result,” William Phelps, PhD, senior vice president of extramural research at American Cancer Society, said in the release. “Being able to prevent metastasis or treat metastatic tumors in patients with melanoma would be a crucial development and could save many lives from this aggressive form of cancer. These two teams of investigators will take advantage of recent rapid growth in our knowledge about cancer spread to explore new treatment options for late-stage melanoma.”