Scientists found a cell that could stop melanoma in its tracks

Melanoma is a common type of skin cancer – it is pretty much the reason why you have to put sunscreen on every time you leave the house. Melanoma can develop very rapidly, but scientists at the University of Queensland have now found a way to put the brakes on the rapid development of melanoma lesions.

Your immune system recognizes cancer cells and kills them all the time. If not its rapid responses, you would be getting cancer much more often than you do. Scientists were studying the Group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2) which are responsible for initiation and organization of immune responses against cancer. They found that ILC2 could positively influence the behaviour of tumour cells – they can essentially halt the rapid development of full-blown melanoma lesions. But will we be able to take advantage of this opportunity?

Melanoma cell. In many cases, melanoma can develop very rapidly. Image credit: Sriram Subramaniam via Wikimedia

Researchers were studying ILC2 cells in order to improve our understanding of their function and roles regarding melanoma. Thanks to previous studies scientists already knew that ILC2 cells can suppress or stimulate production of cancerous tumours. However, they didn’t know exactly which role ILC2 would take in which situation – it all depends on the setting. Now scientists see the potential for a new immunotherapy approach, which would encourage ILC2 cells to apply the brakes on melanoma development.

Scientists found that if they could boost the ILC2-eosinophil axis these rare immune cells would halt the development of melanoma. Dr Nicolas Jacquelot, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our results identified that ILC2s have a critical function in melanoma immunity, and that there was a potentially coordinated approach to harness ILC2 function for anti-tumour immunotherapies. This opens a new pathway to explore targets not previously used as part of the immunotherapy regime, to both prevent development of metastasis and prevent resistance to therapy.”

It is not a coincidence that Australian scientists are particularly interested in melanoma research. Because of the geographical location of Australia and the climate in the continent, around two thirds of locals will be diagnosed with a form of skin cancer before they are 70 years old. Two thirds will have skin cancer! Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world, because the sun is so bright and aggressive there.

On the other hand, people are getting melanoma all over the world. This type of cancer can be extremely dangerous, especially if it goes unnoticed for some time. Use sunblock and stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible, while scientists are trying to figure out the best way to stop melanoma tumours in their tracks.


Source: University of Queensland