The more times metastasised melanoma has mutated and the patient’s immune system has been activated against a tumour — the better the chances of survival after immunotherapy. This is what emerges from a research collaboration between Lund University in Sweden and Herlev university hospital in Denmark. The findings are now published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
In simple terms, the treatment entails first removing the patient’s own T cells from a tumour. T cells are the part of the immune system that recognises tumour cells. The patient’s cells are then cultured in the lab and subsequently injected back into the patient.
“The aim is for them to seek out and fight a tumour and the circulating tumour cells,” explains Göran Jönsson, a researcher at Lund University. He is collaborating with Herlev university hospital in Copenhagen, which is one of few hospitals in Europe currently conducting clinical trials of this form of immunotherapy.
Although the treatment outcomes are promising, only just below half of the patients respond to this immunotherapy.
“Between 10 and 20 percent of those affected by advanced melanoma can be cured with a single treatment of adoptive T cell therapy. On the other hand, the treatment is very intensive and has many side effects. It is therefore important to be able to predict which patients stand to benefit from the treatment so that we give it to the right ones,” say, Inge Marie Svane and Marco Donia, physicians at Herlev university hospital and researchers at the University of Copenhagen.
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The technology employs machine-learning software to analyze images of skin lesions and provide doctors with objective data on telltale biomarkers of melanoma, which is deadly if detected too late, but highly treatable if caught early.
The AI system — trained using tens of thousands of skin images and their corresponding eumelanin and hemoglobin levels — could initially reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies, a significant health-care cost. It gives doctors objective information on lesion characteristics to help them rule out melanoma before taking more invasive action.
The technology could be available to doctors as early as next year.
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Researchers at the University of Iowa did just that, documenting in real time and in 3-D how melanoma cells form tumors. The cells waste no time finding their cancerous cousins, slashing their way through a lab-prepared gel to quickly join other melanoma cells and form tumors.
Biology professor David Soll and his team used unique computer-assisted 3-D reconstruction software to chronicle how both breast tissue cancer cells and melanoma cells form tumors. The group found the two cancers act similarly in the joining stages of tumor formation. With that knowledge, they screened more than four dozen monoclonal antibodies — unique agents that can stop cells from growing or forming tumors and can be mass produced — before finding two that block tumor creation in both types of cancer.
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