Treatments for Melanoma: A Vaccine Targeting Deadly Melanoma Shows Early Promise by Dr. Eddie Fatakhov
Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer and has been on the rise for 30 years. While only accounting for about 1 percent of skin cancer cases, melanoma is extremely aggressive and causes the largest proportion of skin cancer-related deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2019 over 96,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed and over 7,000 people will die of melanoma. Melanoma is most commonly going to affect white males in their mid-60s. While there are specific factors that may increase one’s risk of melanoma, it can be found among all races and ages.
How exactly does melanoma occur? Melanoma grows when unrepaired DNA cause damage to skin cells. The most common cause of this damage is from UV radiation (sunshine and tanning beds). Those with the genetic predisposing factors are plagued by rapidly multiplying cancerous cells that form malignant tumors. To date, there have been plenty of options for treatment of melanoma, but not any real options for prevention (other than the unlikely method of total avoidance of the sun).
Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) now say that have developed a nanovaccine for melanoma. The term “nanovaccine” is not one generally known by the public. Nanovaccines are the cutting edge in vaccine technology that use nanoparticles as carriers. These nanoparticles are a similar size to the pathogens (the disease-causing agent) which allows our immune system to react in a manner that is highly efficient in developing immunity. The effectiveness of these nanovaccines is also due to the fact that the nanoparticles are more efficient at targeting the direct site in the body where the disease originates, instead of targeting the body systemically.
TAU researchers have demonstrated how this nanoparticle is the foundation of this new, potentially life-saving vaccine. It has thus far been tested and shown to be effective in preventing melanoma development in mice. Not only has prevention been demonstrated, but also treatment in the primary tumors and melanoma metastases have been successful. Using this nanovaccine technology, the immune systems of the mice are able to identify the attack the exact cells which contain the melanoma cells.
The immune system has an amazing memory and continues to attack these cells if and when they appear in the body. TAU researchers tested the effectiveness of the vaccine on healthy mice, melanoma-infected mice, and on the tissue of patients with brain metastases from melanoma. The outcome of each condition tested showed that the vaccine was effective in either prevention or treatment.
With one in three people at risk of developing cancer in an invasive site, and one of five of people at risk of dying from invasive cancer, the development of any vaccine that can prevent a form of cancer is a medical breakthrough. While still in the early stages of research, these preliminary findings are promising. In a time where more than 600,000 people in the U.S. will die from cancer just this year, any research that could clear the path for a future cancer-free generation is worth exploration.
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