Researchers work on melanoma vaccine

This year, an estimated 76,250 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma and an estimated 9,180 deaths will occur from this dangerous form of skin cancer.

As the number of melanoma cases increase, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota are working on a vaccine to battle against it.

The new idea

Researchers are using a genetic combination of human DNA from melanoma cells coupled with a virus that is a cousin of the rabies virus. In the right combinations, researchers have eradicated skin cancer in mice.

“We believe that this new technique will help us to identify a whole new set of genes that encode antigens that are important in stimulating the immune system to reject cancer. In particular, we have seen that several proteins need to be expressed together to generate the most effective rejection of the tumors in mice,” says Richard Vile, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic researcher in the Department of Molecular Medicine and a coauthor of the study, along with Jose Pulido, M.D., a Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist and ocular oncologist.

He continued to say, “Nobody knows how many antigens the immune system can really see on tumor cells,” says Dr. Vile. “By expressing all of these proteins in highly immunogenic viruses, we increased their visibility to the immune system. The immune system now thinks it is being invaded by the viruses, which are expressing cancer-related antigens that should be eliminated.”

More on melanoma

According to PubHealthMed, melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and some populations don’t know about skin cancer prevention methods.

“Melanoma is caused by changes in cells called melanocytes, which produce a skin pigment called melanin. Melanin is responsible for skin and hair color. It can appear on normal skin, or it may begin as a mole or other area that has changed in appearance. Some moles that are present at birth may develop into melanomas,” according to the site.

In many cases the treatment for melanoma involves surgery, where the tumor is cut out. A cocktail of medications and chemotherapy/radiation may also follow.

Pulido’s research may offer new treatment answers in the future.

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