Preventing melanoma from spreading to different parts of the body may be as simple as removing the blood supply to the cancer, as per the researchers.
Researchers from The University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute have found stem cells which are responsible for forming blood vessels in tumours and have recognized how to ‘turn the cells off’.
Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani said the latest findings had enormous implications for cancer patients.
“Blood vessels are vital because tumours can’t grow without them – they feed the tumours and allow the cancer to spread,” Professor Khosrotehrani said.
“If you get rid of these stem cells, then the blood vessels don’t form and the tumours don’t grow or spread to other locations.”
Professor Khosrotehrani said ability to obstruct blood vessel progression could be valuable in treating recently diagnosed cancer patients as it may help to halt the cancer from spreading at an early phase.
“This idea has been around for a while, but it has proven difficult to achieve because blood vessel formation is a fundamental mechanism by which our body responds to injury,” he said.
“Directly targeting the stem cells that form these blood vessels is a new approach that could make the difference.”
The research team is now planning to test the capability of a compound to cease these stem cells from forming blood vessels, in National Health and Medical Research Council(NHMRC) funded study.
Researcher Dr Jatin Patel told that melanoma’s ability to rapidly spread from the skin to other parts of the body was what made it so lethal.
“We know that before tumours spread to places like lymph nodes or lungs, the body starts growing extra blood vessels in these areas – almost as if preparing special ‘niches’ for the cancer,” Dr Patel said.
“Our next study will focus on blocking the development of these niches.
“If the body doesn’t prepare them, then the cancer won’t grow there.”
The recent research results have been published in Nature Communications.