5. May 2021

Press release: Specific protein plays a leading role in the development of melanoma

PRESS RELEASE: Melanoma is one of the most common cancers among Danes – and is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. For the first time, researchers from the Danish Cancer Society are able to show that the protein Ambra1 has an effect on how fast melanoma cancer cells grow and how aggressive they are. The results give hope for new treatments to the patients.

In a new article, the researchers for the first time show that the protein Ambra1 is important for how melanoma cells grow. The results show that if the amount of Ambra1 is low, the cancer cells grow much faster, and in experiments with mice, animals with low amounts of Ambra1 are less likely to survive melanoma.

Although the experiments have so far only been performed in the laboratory and in mouse experiments, the researchers hope that the results in the future may lead to new, tailored treatments for patients with melanoma. Senior researcher Daniela De Zio, who has headed the research, says:

– There are currently drugs that can counteract the processes taking place in melanoma cells with low amounts of Ambra1. These are currently being tested in clinical trials on patients with other types of cancer, including colon cancer and ovarian cancer. However, our results suggest that it may also be relevant to test them on patients with melanoma. If this type of trial shows good results, it could lead to new treatments for melanoma patients who have low levels of Ambra1, says Daniela De Zio.

Prof. Francesco Cecconi, who co-supervised this research with Daniela De Zio, adds:

–  Ambra1 is a very versatile molecule that may represent a novel target in a wide variety of cancer therapies, a sort of new frontier in molecular oncology.

Indeed, additional important results on Ambra1 levels and tumorigenesis have been published on a recent article from the Danish Cancer Society appeared in Nature only a few weeks ago, highlighting the importance of this molecule in fighting against cancer.

Growth and metastasis can be slowed down

The drugs that Daniela De Zio refers to work by inhibiting the protein FAK1. One of the reasons why cancer cells with low amounts of Ambra1 are more aggressive is that the protein FAK1 is more active.

FAK1 helps the cancer cells to spread in the body, and by inhibiting FAK1, the researchers were able to slow down the growth of the aggressive cancer cells.

– We continue to work to investigate whether our results can also be seen in patients with melanoma. If we can also see a connection between the level of Ambra1 and how the disease develops in these patients, it would be a good argument to offer patients with low levels of Ambra1 FAK1 inhibitors as part of a trial, says Daniela De Zio.

Every year, around 1,080 men and 1,250 women get melanoma, and the disease is thus one of the most common cancers in Denmark.

Read the press release from the Danish Cancer Society and CARD (in Danish) here

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