Melanoma tumor cell size determines choice of best treatments

Melanoma, tumor cell size determines choice of best treatments

Melanoma © ANSA

The size of the melanoma tumor cells allows us to predict the best prognosis and therapy for each patient, potentially maximizing the chances of successful treatment. This was revealed by a study published in the journal Science Advances.

Cancer cells were generally considered “a hodgepodge of different sizes,” says Chris Bakal of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who led the work, using high-performance imaging to assess how genetic changes affect the size of millions of cells.

Melanoma develops from skin cells called melanocytes and is the most serious type of skin cancer.
The scientists found that the smallest cells were about 17 micrometers (μm) in size, while the largest had an average size of 50 μm. The smaller cells contained higher levels of DNA repair proteins, suggesting they can tolerate more DNA damage. These cells could therefore be more susceptible to drugs that block DNA repair, especially when combined with chemotherapy that damages DNA, Bakal explains.

However, the larger cells contained DNA damage and were less dependent on DNA repair tools. According to the researchers, this could make chemotherapy on these cells less effective and immunotherapy more effective if they appear more “foreign” to the immune system. In fact, immunotherapy helps the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells.

Developing a treatment strategy based on melanoma cell size could help reduce the side effects some people experience when taking cancer drugs, says Bakal. The results could also improve our understanding of cancer cells in general.

Researchers are studying whether similar findings could be applied to head and neck cancer. (HAND).




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