Mouse models and patient data suggest potential biomarker for immunotherapy response in melanoma

Source: National Cancer Institute, April 2020

CCR scientists have identified a molecular signature that could help clinicians assess whether someone with melanoma is likely to benefit from immunotherapy. The discovery, reported April 13, 2020, in Nature Medicine, was made using four genetically engineered mouse models of the deadly skin cancer. The models give researchers new power to investigate why some melanomas respond well to immunotherapy and others do not.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors that boost the body’s ability to fight cancer by releasing natural brakes on the immune system are effective for about a third of patients with metastatic melanoma. These drugs can also cause serious side effects, such as overamping the immune system, and researchers have struggled to reliably identify the best candidates for treatment.

Researchers led by CCR’s Scientific Director for Basic Research, Glenn Merlino, Ph.D., also Senior Investigator in the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics, have spent more than a decade developing and characterizing new mouse models that faithfully replicate key features of human melanoma so they can better understand the disease. Now, they have assembled a panel of four mouse models that, like patients, differ in their underlying biology and their response to treatment.