Scientists have uncovered molecules released by invasive skin cancer that reprogram healthy immune cells to help cancer to spread. Targeting these molecules with inhibiting drugs could help to prevent this aggressive skin cancer coming back after treatment. The findings of the Cancer Research UK-funded study are published in Cell, today. Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London looked at cells from the edges of invasive melanomas in mice and human tumor samples, to investigate the effects of a protein they produce—called Myosin II.
They found that high levels of Myosin II in these cells not only makes them more mobile but also triggers the release of chemicals that reprogram the immune system. These chemicals affect the surrounding healthy immune cells, called macrophages, and hijack their natural cancer-killing abilities. This means that instead of attacking the cancer cells, they end up helping them to survive.