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Quest for new anti-tumour prognostic and pharmaceutical markers for melanoma patients

The constant increase in the rate of cutaneous melanoma over recent years and its resistance to anti-tumour pharmaceutical drugs has meant that the study of cutaneous melanoma is one of the greatest scientific challenges in the field of cancer. The Human Melanoma research team at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) is focusing on this study.

The identification of prognostic markers susceptible to melanoma and the development of new pharmaceutical drugs against cell tumours are the two main lines of research of the Human Melanoma Research Team at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). The Human Melanoma Research Team is part of the Department of Cell Biology and Histology and the persons responsible are Ms María Dolores Boyano and Ms Aintzane Asumendi. The team has clinical specialists such as Dr. José Luís Díaz Pérez and Dr. Careaga from the Dermatology Services at the Cruces and Basurto Hospitals respectively. The two previously mentioned lines of research are two ways of making progress in research into cancer. Melanoma is a tumour which, if diagnosed at early stages of its development, generally has a good prognosis. However, on occasions, the behaviour of the tumour is very aggressive and gives rise to metastasis which causes death amongst patients. This is why it is very important to undertake early diagnosis of melanoma. In this vein, the UPV/EHU team has focused its research on prognostic markers and the identification of proteins directly related to this tumour process. The identification of these proteins in patients with melanoma and comparing them with those from healthy individuals has enabled the location of a new prognostic factor in malignant progression, the soluble receptor of interleukin-2. The team is currently using an approach in this research involving mass analysis techniques, both at genomic as well as proteomic levels, and is studying multiple genes and proteins in depth, given that they believe that what is involved here is not just one marker but it is a series of protein markers in each individual that provide the most important signal for predicting malignancy. It is thus of utmost importance to identify these markers that can be indicators for the malignant progression of a tumour and, in this manner, help in prevention and try to provide some kind of therapy for these patients. The research work being carried out by the Human Melanoma Research Team at the UPV/EHU is also involved in the quest for the genes susceptible to melanoma. That is, it should not be necessary to wait for an individual to be diagnosed for melanoma given that, knowing the genes related to having more susceptibility to suffering from melanoma, the appropriate measures of prevention and medical monitoring can be taken, and in a personalised manner. With this goal, the UPV/EHU research team is collaborating with Dr. Santos Alonso from the Department of Genetics, Physical Anthropology and Animal Physiology at the Faculty of Science and Technology. Based on all these findings, the UPV/EHU research team have identified new tumour markers and are currently researching new molecules and pharmaceutical drugs for therapeutic use. Today the team is focusing on the identification of these molecules or pharmaceutical drugs and studying in depth the characterisation of the intracellular routes activated by these drugs in order to identify markers of sensitivity or resistance. Acquired resistance is one of the principal problems in current therapies, specifically in chemotherapy. The identification of the intracellular routes activated by these pharmaceutical drugs will undoubtedly contribute to drawing up new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer.

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