Scientists have pinpointed a cancer protein that controls the disease’s spread from the skin to other organs. In a study recently published in Nature, researchers propose that blocking this cancer protein may be an effective treatment. Working with mice genetically engineered to develop human skin cancers, the team discovered that the protein plays a key role promoting—or inhibiting—metastasis, the spread of cancer from one area or organ to another. Dubbed MIDKINE, the protein is secreted by melanomas—the most serious type of skin cancer—before travelling to a different part of the mouse body to kickstart cancer formation, researchers said. In subsequent observations in humans, high levels of MIDKINE in the lymph nodes of skin cancer patients were predictive of “significantly worse” outcomes, the research team reported.
When these tumors are agressive, they act at a distance much earlier than previously thought,” said the authors.
MIDKINE travelled directly to the new cancer site irrespective of lymph vessel formation around the original tumors. When MIDKINE was inhibited in mouse tumors, metastasis was blocked as well, said the team.
These results indicate a change of paradigm in the study of melanoma metastasis,” the researchers say.
SOURCES: 1) NewsMaxHealth. http://www.newsmax.com/Health/ Health-News Health-disease-cancer-science/2017/06/29/id/ 798905/. Accessed Sep 13, 2017; 2) Olmeda et al. Whole-body imaging of lymphovascular niches identifies pre-metastatic roles of midkine. Nature. 2017;546:676–680.