CNIO researchers assess melanoma progression with a new liquid biopsy technique

Source: Eurek Alert, May 2019

When the surgeon surgically removes a melanoma, some patients are said to be ‘cancer-free’ and they do not get additional treatment. However, should the fluid obtained in the drainage implanted after surgery be tested using the liquid biopsy technique rather than be disposed of as medical waste, the test might predict the high or low risk of cancer recurrence. Patients with a high risk of late recurrence would get post-surgery treatment. This is a recent finding by scientists at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), who have discovered that there are biomarkers in the fluid collected from surgically treated patients that reveal the presence of specific mutations and help determine the risk of the cancer coming back after some period of time. This is very important in melanoma, since it is an aggressive tumour type that metastasizes in a large number of patients. Researchers will now try to confirm whether the liquid biopsy technique may be even easier to perform directly on blood samples and whether it can be used in other types of tumours as well. The research work was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Detecting the risk of recurrence

The more scientists find about metastasis, the more they know that it is ‘consciously’ initiated by primary tumours, sending ‘anticipatory signals’ to other organs and promoting in them a suitable growth environment. These ‘anticipatory signals’ are primary tumour-derived extracellular vesicles that reach other organs and get them ready to host cancer cells. This is one of the main research interests of Héctor Peinado, Head of the Microenvironment and Metastasis Group at CNIO.

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