Professor Xu Dong Zhang and his team investigated the role a particular protein plays in melanoma cell survival. The results of this research are hoped to provide the basis for improved treatment benefits from existing drugs and new drug development.
Melanoma is a major health problem in Australia, being one of the most common cancers in both men and women. When a melanoma is caught and treated early, the survival rate is high. However, once melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, the outlook for a person is poor.
Despite the advances being made in using targeted therapies for other types of cancer, a cure for advanced melanoma remains an unmet healthcare need in Australia.
Melanoma tumours are driven by a molecular network that helps the cancer cells to survive and grow. Professor Zhang and his team have shown that a key component of this network, protein (RIP1), is often increased in melanoma cells and acts as a driver for tumour growth and spreading of the cancer.
Using melanoma samples and preclinical testing, the team found that by inhibiting this protein they can slow down tumour growth. The team has also been able to define what causes the increase of RIP1 in melanoma cells, and how the protein protects cancer cells from chemotherapy. The results suggest RIP1 could be an effective treatment target, particularly in combination with existing chemotherapy drugs.
The results of this study show that by blocking the pro-cancer powers of RIP1, it is possible to stop the growth of melanoma cells. This represents an exciting new way of treating advanced melanoma by targeting the disease at the molecular level.
Professor Xu Dong Zhang The University of Newcastle