Demystifying what makes melanoma so ‘good’ at resisting treatments

Dr Pierre Close
Project period
Feb 2023 - Jan 2025
Research Institute
University of Liege
Cancer types
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Pierre Close and his team are studying how melanoma tumours resist treatment. Unravelling how melanoma cells control the way proteins are made inside the cell could reveal new ways to treat the disease.

Hope for the future

Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. It can often be treated easily with surgery if caught early, however once it has spread it is very aggressive. The treatments available for advanced melanoma sometimes do not work because the melanoma resists treatment. This means some patients are left with no other options if their cancer does not respond.

Dr Pierre Close and his team hope to find a way to make melanoma treatments more effective, by finding out how it resists attempts to treat it. They believe melanoma cells may gain the ability to control how proteins are generated in the cell, and the result of this could be what helps them to adapt, spread, and resist treatments. Uncovering how melanoma cells do this could reveal new weak spots and new ways to treat melanoma.

Dr Close's research team

Meet the scientist

Dr Close is married and has two children. He enjoys spending time with family, especially biking and hiking in nature. He likes to discover unique places and landscapes that were given to us by the nature. He also enjoys music very much and says that it is important for balance in his life – he says "There is always music for every important moment of your life”.

The science

A crucial part of the life of a cell is to generate proteins. To make proteins, biological ‘machinery’ in the cell reads instructions from DNA and a careful step-by-step process translates them into the proteins. One type of molecule important to this process is called ‘transfer RNA’, or tRNA.

Dr Pierre Close and his team have been studying how tRNA might be important to how cancer cells adapt and resist treatment. Specifically, they believe that if a cancer cell is able to control this process, it could reprogramme it to generate the proteins that allow it to resist treatment.

The researchers now aim to understand how this might be happening in melanoma, a type of skin cancer that is particularly ‘good’ at resisting the effects of treatments that should otherwise work. They will use samples from patients with melanoma and test if the cancer cells are able to control the protein-making process. They also want to find out if targeting the tRNA, which is crucial to this process, could be a new way to make melanoma treatments more effective – or even create new ones.

As researchers involved in cancer research, we ultimately wish that our work brings concrete benefit to patients. I am myself a donator of cancer foundations. I strongly believe in the combination of basic and translational research as the way to provide new, unexpected and more efficient therapeutic solutions, even it takes time and even if failure occurs.
Dr Pierre Close

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