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Disrupting melanoma skin cancer cells with nanoparticles

  • Researcher: Dr Maria Soengas
  • Institution: Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Madrid, Spain
  • Award Amount: £224,000 for 3 years from 1st June 2015
  • Cancer Type: Skin Cancer
Disrupting melanoma skin cancer cells with nanoparticles
Dr Maria Soengas is trying to beat melanoma skin cancer with the help of nanoparticles.Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is resistant to many standard treatments.  The reason for this is because melanoma cells mutate (change) the fastest out of all cancer cells meaning they are a master of disguise when it comes to ‘hiding’ from treatments. In addition, melanoma cells are manipulative - they can actually alter their microenvironment (the tissues and blood vessels and immune system surrounding the tumour) to favour the its survival and spread.

Secreted factors to and from melanoma cells have long been linked to helping grow blood vessels the tumours need to supply oxygen and food.  Stopping these new blood vessels from forming should ‘starve’ the tumour to death.  But to date, no effective compounds have been described to interfere with this process.

Dr Soengas told us “We are aiming to deregulate the machinery melanoma cells use to:

1. Take in compounds from their environment
2. Recycle key internal ‘organs’ called organelles
3. Release important proteins to their surrounding neighbours.

To do this, we are using nano particles (microscopic particles) filled with something called double stranded RNA (dsRNA). We have already found that altering this machinery can kill melanoma cells, stop them spreading and at the same time, favour the recruitment and clearance of the cancer cells by the immune system.

We have assembled an international team of experts in molecular biology, oncology, dermatology and pathology, which together aim to use unique state-of-the-art mouse models along with a large collection of human biopsies obtained from patients who are either responsive or resistant to approved anti-melanoma treatments. dsRNA-based therapies are currently being tested in multiple clinical trials. Therefore, the intellectual property generated in this proposal may have a direct impact on how patients are treated in the future.
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