Potential Treatment For Melanoma

Armen Hareyan's picture

Melanomas could be treated using an anti-tumour protein, reports The Guardian, adding that the protein puts cells into hibernation or makes them commit suicide if they start to get cancerous. This research could be used as a new way to threat the notoriously aggressive cancer, the article adds.

The news item is based on laboratory research in cells and in mice, which investigated what caused cells with a particular gene mutation to become cancerous. The researchers discovered that a protein - IGFBP7 - prevents the cells from dividing uncontrollably. The researchers found that when mice with human melanoma tumours were injected with the protein, the tumours stopped growing. However, as with all animal studies, the effects of the protein on malignant melanoma will need to be tested in humans. Until that is done it is impossible to tell whether the protein is effective and safe in the treatment of melanoma.


The researchers identified 17 genes that caused cells containing the BRAF mutation to divide uncontrollably when their activity was reduced. Almost all of these genes (16 of the 17) were involved in the process of cells losing the ability to divide (senescence), and three of these genes were involved in the cells committing suicide (apoptosis). One of the genes that played in role in senescence and apoptosis was IGFBP7, which produces a protein that is secreted by the cells.

The researchers found that if the liquid that cells with the BRAF mutation were grown in was added to other cells that did not have the mutation, they went into senescence. The liquid did not have this effect if they removed the IGFBP7 protein.

Human melanoma cells that had the BRAF mutation did not produce IGFBP7, and if they were exposed to it, it stopped them proliferating and caused them to die by committing cell suicide. In mice with human melanoma tumours, injecting IGFBP7 into the tumour site or into the general circulation stopped the tumours from growing.

By NHS Choices