Skin cancer cure step closer as Manchester scientists mimic way cells ‘wriggle’ through body

Manchester scientists are one step closer to eradicating malignant melanoma as they unearthed a potential treatment that mimics the way cancer cells ‘wriggle’ through the body.

The university researchers teamed up with Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute and King’s College London to discover the way that melanoma skin cancer cells can invade healthy tissue and spread ‘aggressively’ around the body.

The life-threatening cells form different shapes allowing them to squeeze their way out of tumours, travel through the bloodstreams or even raid soft tissues such as the brain.

The cells can also assume a long thin shape giving the life-threatening disease the ability to travel through harder tissues like bone.

Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said: “Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer because it spreads quickly and aggressively.

“Most cancer deaths are caused by the disease spreading round the body, so this kind of research is vital if we’re to improve survival from advanced tumours.  

“As well as finding more effective treatments for advanced melanoma, we also need to stress the importance of early diagnosis, detecting tumours before they have a chance to spread.”

The scientists also learnt that when melanoma cells adopt a rounded amoeba-like shape to ‘wriggle’ through the body and invade new areas, they produce molecules called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), giving them license to break down surrounding tissues and keep them on the move.

Study author and Cancer Research UK scientist at King’s College London, Dr Victoria Sanz–Moreno, admitted they had underestimated how effective the cell can be.

Shee said: “Our work shows that MMPs are more important in aiding melanoma cells to spread than we previously thought, telling us more about how they move and invade different parts of the body.”

Attentions will now focus on mimicking the cells’ ability to move through the body in the hope of curing the disease.

Dr Sanz-Moreno said: “Developing drugs that block MMPs could be an exciting new avenue for treating malignant melanomas in the future.”

Picture courtesy of U.S. Army RDECOM via Flickr, with thanks

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