Scientists have made a breakthrough discovery that could open up revolutionary treatments for skin cancer.
Research has uncovered that special immune cells have the power to put melanoma tumours ‘to sleep’, stopping them from spreading.
The tissue-resident memory T-cells have been used to fight cancer in the past but researchers did not know how they worked – until now.
Scientists have made a breakthrough discovery that could open up revolutionary treatments for skin cancer (special T cells pictured in green, melanoma cells in red and skin in blue)
Research carried out by scientists at Melbourne’s Peter Dohety Institute and Telethon Kids Institute was published in Nature journal on Tuesday.
They discovered that the T-cells could be used to stop the growth of skin cancers.
Paper lead author Simone Park said the T-cells ‘hold the cancer in check’.
‘What we found was that the cells are capable of inducing a state of dormancy of the tumour, stopping the cancer cells without killing them,’ Ms Park told Daily Mail Australia.
‘These particular cells are very good at controlling melanoma long term.’
She said scientists monitored both melanoma and T-cells using fluorescent markers.
Researchers discovered that the T-cells could be used to stop the growth of skin cancers (special T cells pictured in green, melanoma cells in red and skin in blue)
FACTS AND FIGURES
– There are 14,000 new diagnoses of melanoma in Australia annually
– Almost 2000 individuals die from the skin cancer nationally each year
– The five-year survival rate is between 90 to 99 per cent if melanoma is detected early
– The rate drops to less than 50 per cent if not detected early
‘We could watch in real time the T cells interacting with melanoma cells,’ she said.
T-cells were removed from mice which had dormant melanomas, and once the cells were taken out then tumours then began to grow.
‘We could identify melanoma cells that can’t be seen with the naked eye,’ Ms Park said.
‘This mechanism hadn’t been described before.’
Ms Park said she hoped the research breakthrough could lead to more improved treatments for melanoma.
‘In the future, the broader effect could be how to better treat melanoma… and hopefully treat people much better than we are now,’ she said.
In Australia, there are 14,000 new diagnoses of melanoma each year – and almost 2000 deaths from the skin cancer.
The nation has the second highest rate of melanoma in the world.
In Australia, there are 14,000 new diagnoses of melanoma each year – and almost 2000 deaths from the skin cancer
WHAT IS MELANOMA AND HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT?
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumors.
The estimated number of diagnosis for skin cancer in Australia in 2018 is 14,320 which grew from the previous year were there were 13,941 cases and 1,839 deaths.
Approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.
- Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
- Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma
- Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
- Hair color: Red heads are more at risk than others
- Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
- Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk
- Removal of the melanoma:
This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary.
- Skin grafting:
The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent.
- Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy:
This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body.
- Use sunscreen and do not burn
- Avoid tanning outside and in beds
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
- Keep newborns out of the sun
- Examine your skin every month
- See your physician every year for a skin exam
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and Cancer Council Australia