In a ‘rapid autopsy’ study, UCLA researchers identify lethal molecular alterations after present-day therapies fail patients with metastatic melanoma

Source: UCLA Health, April 2023

In a new translational study from UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, researchers analyzed genetic changes in the organs of recently deceased patients to understand how metastatic cutaneous melanoma spreads in those who had initially benefited from precision therapies. Results are published online ahead of print in Nature Medicine.

The researchers, including collaborators at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said unveiling the landscape of DNA and RNA alterations across multiple organs of metastasis may provide new direction in cancer therapeutics to address therapy failure.

“We hope to reconstruct, from the end of life, the lethal journey melanoma traverses across time and body sites,” said Dr. Roger Lo, a UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher and a professor of medicine and molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “We need to know how many ways, even within the same patient, the cancer evades these powerful therapies, what underlying processes create ‘new species’ capable of escaping therapies, whether the cancer co-opts different organs to help it spread and resist therapies.”