Skin Cancer Study Shows Treatment Hope

Skin Cancer

A new finding in the battle against skin cancer could produce big developments in treatment methods. Scientists and researchers from the Laboratory for Investigative Dermatology at Rockefeller University and Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College focused their work on the immune system. At the center of the findings were faulty dendritic cells failing to identify pathogens responsible for skin cancer.

Dendritic cells normally direct the body's T cells in the immune system to attack and neutralize would-be invaders into the body. There are a number of T cells, of which belong to group of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. T cells are the body's front line of defenses in the immune system. When dendritic cells fail to direct T cells to attack squamous cell carcinomas the result is the development of skin cancer.


Researchers discovered the cancerous cells were able to spread around some dendritic cells. The cancerous cells were able to spread by preventing the dendritic cells from signaling surrounding T cells. Finding how the dendritic cells are essentially turned off and rendered impotent could lead to major developments in how skin cancer is treated.

John Carucci, associate professor of dermatology and director of Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, says his team is excited about these developments for a multitude of reasons. If the team were able to learn how to turn dendritic cells back on some skin cancer patients could be treated without surgery. Patients with prognoses that are currently considered "inoperable" would also have hope.

Previous research with psoriasis is assisting the research team. Psoriasis is another skin disease associated with the failure of dedritic cells to perform their task correctly. Like many past discoveries and medical developments, the path to finding a skin cancer treatment will likely come from research of a multitude of conditions.

Skin cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the United States, with an estimated 60,000 individuals diagnosed annually. White men over the age of 50 are a disproportionate number of skin cancer deaths in the nation. Research into a physiological reason behind this is also underway. Some research suggests simply the tendency of working outside more and cultural norms of avoiding the doctor's office are behind the numbers.


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