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Investigating how skin cancer spreads to the brain

  • Researcher: Dr Neta Erez
  • Institution: Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • Award Amount: £154,994 for 3 years from January 2014
  • Cancer Type: Skin Cancer
Investigating how skin cancer spreads to the brain
Cutaneous melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and is responsible for the most skin cancer deaths. The reason for this is because cells often spread to distant organs, including the brain, where they form secondary tumours and stop the organs working correctly. Exactly how melanoma cells are able to travel around the body to the brain and then how they are able to form a secondary tumour is still unclear. The cancer microenvironment, the space in between the cancer cells within the tumour mass, is known to play a key role in tumour development and spread. In the brain the microenvironment contains cells called astrocytes that are normally responsible for maintaining a healthy brain and play a role in repair, inflammation and the scarring process should the brain become injured. However, cells have been found to be deregulated in several diseases including brain cancer and spread. With her Worldwide Cancer Research grant Dr Erez is investigating how these astrocytes are involved in facilitating melanoma cells that have spread to the brain, to form a secondary tumour. As this requires her to visualise the cells moving from skin tumours to the brain this work will involve the use of mice and specialist imaging techniques, as well as lab based techniques.
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