• Melanoma is a very common tumor and quite aggressive
  • Current treatment methods at their best provide 5-year survival rate in 98% of cases
  • A newly discovered vaccine may be the ultimate treatment for a 100% survival rate

Introduction – Melanoma is a skin cancer caused by abnormal proliferation of pigmented cells known as melanocytes (1). In contrast to basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma is more serious because it, if not treated in time, is characterized by metastasis to other organs (1). Exposure to sunlight (UV rays) and hereditary factors play a crucial role in the onset of melanoma (1). Mutations in the CDKN2A gene have been found in 40% of those affected by melanoma, while the carcinogenesis process as in other neoplasms involves the activation of proto-oncogenes and loss of suppressor-tumor gene function (2). The most common sites of melanoma localization are: the face, legs, hands, and spine (3).

Fig.1. Skin melanoma. Image adapted from (2).

Melanoma is characterized by horizontal and vertical growth, where vertical growth plays an important role in the process of metastasis (2). In the US 192,310 cases of melanoma have been diagnosed so far this year. The disease is 20 times more common in white people than in black people, and involves the most common cancer in young people aged 25 – 29 years (4). To distinguish non-neoplastic skin lesions from melanoma is used ABCDE method: A (Asymmetry), B (Border), C (Color), D (Diameter) and E (Evolution) (5).

Fig.2. The ABCDEs of Melanoma. Image adapted from (1).

The prognosis of the disease in cases that are diagnosed early, without undergoing metastasis, in 98% of cases is 5 years (5). Methods for treatment of melanoma include surgical excision, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy (5).

Latest research – Scientists at the University of Tel Aviv did a research on a vaccine that would be effective against melanoma (6).  They succeeded in discovering a Nano-vaccine, whose primary focus was the elimination of cancerous melanotic cells from tumor localization (6). The vaccine contains small particles, 170 nm in diameter, which have biodegradable properties. These particles have peptide content, which are expressed in melanocytes. Stimulation of the immune system in immune mice will result in the attack of carcinogenic melanotic cells at the time of their appearance (6). Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nanomedicine at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and Prof. Helena Florindo of the University of Lisbon tested the efficacy of the vaccine in three aspects: prevention of melanoma in mice, treatment of primary tumor and metastasis of the brain given by melanoma (7). Scientists from the National Academy of Science did some other research on advanced melanoma in mice. In these studies, they used a molecule called Diprovicim, which they added it in the composition of the vaccine. This molecule is capable of inducing immune responses, but at the same time activates cancer fighting cells and targets them at the site where the tumor is located (9) (10). Previously, all mice used in the experiment were given anti-cancer anti-PD-L1 therapy, and after a period of 54 days the survival rate was 100%. Further research has confirmed that the pathway through which this vaccine works is by activating some immune system cells known as tumor-infiltrating leukocytes (8).

Conclusion – At this time where propaganda against vaccines are all over, this discovery once again proves the irreplaceable role of vaccines not just against epidemic diseases of the past but also their effectiveness to cure the most deadly “epidemic disease” of this century – cancer.

COPYRIGHT: This article is the property of We Speak Science, a non-profit institution co-founded by Dr. Detina Zalli and Dr. Argita Zalli. The article is written by Driton Bajrami, University of Prishtina, Kosovo.

References:

  1. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma/
  2. Vinay Kumar, MBBS, MD, FRCPath, Abul K. Abbas, MBBS, Jon C. Aster, MD, PhD, Robbins Basic Pathology
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/melanoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20374884
  4. https://www.curemelanoma.org
  5. https://www.cancercenter.com/cancer-types/melanoma/symptom
  6. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190805134024.htm
  7. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-scientists-cancer-vaccine-melanoma.html
  8. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41565-019-0512-0
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17492842
  10. https://www.scripps.edu/news-and-events/press-room/2018/20180906-melanoma-cancer-vaccine.html