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Personalised treatments for skin cancer

In many countries, rates of melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, are on the increase.

Treatments are available for melanoma, but tumours inevitably become drug resistant and patients relapse. Dr Esteller wants to improve the situation by making melanoma treatments more 'personalised', and attuned to a patient's specific cancer profile.

Dr Esteller and his team are screening melanoma cells and patient samples for sensitivity to different anticancer drugs, and also measuring how genes are switched on and off in these cells by a process called 'DNA methylation'. Much like turning a tap on or off, DNA methylation can increase or decrease how active a gene is in a cell. By combining this data they hope to find 'signature changes' in methylation of specific genes which predict how different melanomas might react to different anticancer drugs.

"In this project we want find a way to further personalise melanoma therapies," says Dr Esteller, "not only to help develop individually designed and efficient therapy choices for patients, but also to improve currently applied therapies."

"For me, I am really excited because it can represent another significant step in the personalised treatment of melanoma, that is, giving the right drug to the right patient at the right time.”

* Latest statistics from Cancer Research UK