The gist: New research has shed light on why some patients’ melanoma tumors resist standard treatment. The scientists found that certain immune system cells produce chemical signals that may protect melanoma cells, and keep them from being destroyed. To get around this, the researchers say, drugs that affect the immune system (immunotherapy) could be combined with standard melanoma treatment. Indeed, such a combination is already being tested in a clinical trial—a research study with volunteer patients.
“Immune cells may be responsible for drug resistance in melanoma patients, according to research published in Cancer Discovery.”Cancer Research UK scientists at The University of Manchester found that chemical signals produced by a type of immune cell, called macrophages, also act as a survival signal for melanoma cells.
“When the researchers blocked the macrophages’ ability to make this signal – called TNF alpha – melanoma tumours were much smaller and easier to treat.
“When melanoma patients are given chemotherapy or radiotherapy it causes inflammation, increasing the number of macrophages in the body – and raising the levels of TNF alpha. This research suggests that targeting this chemical ‘survival signal’ could lead to new ways to treat the disease.”