Israeli Discovery of Melanoma Trigger Could Stop Skin Cancer in Its Tracks

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Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, and melanoma – which accounts for 2 percent of skin cancer cases – is responsible for nearly all skin cancer deaths. Melanoma rates in the US have risen rapidly over the last 30 years, and although scientists have identified key risk factors, melanoma’s modus operandi continues to elude the world of medical research.

Now, a new Tel Aviv University study sheds light on the precise trigger that enables melanoma cells to become invasive killers, providing a future method to block cancer by pinpointing the precise place in the process where “traveling” cancer turns lethal.

If melanoma is caught in time, it can be removed and the patient’s life can be saved. But once melanoma invades the bloodstream, turning metastatic, an aggressive treatment must be applied. When and how melanoma transforms into aggressive invader remained a mystery – until now.

The study, recently published in the academic journal Molecular Cell, was led by TAU’s Dr. Carmit Levy, along with researchers from the Technion, Sheba Medical Center, and the Hebrew University.

“It occurred to me that there had to be a trigger in the micro-environment of the skin that made the melanoma cells invasive,” Levy said in a statement. “Using the evolutionary logic of the tumor, why spend the energy going up when you can just use your energy to go down and become malignant?”