Skin Cancer Cells Utilize Alzheimer Protein To Survive, Resist Treatment

A study published online in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research has revealed that in cases of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, the cancerous cells, which have spread to the brain make use of amyloid beta to survive there. Amyloid beta is a protein, which is known to build-up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

The study mainly looked at melanoma as it spreads to the brain in almost 40 percent of the patients in the last stage of the disease, i.e. Stage IV. The study was done by researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine and its Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.

The study discovered that metastatic melanoma cells recovered from human brains and grown in tissue cultures produce around three times as much amyloid beta as cancer cells, which have spread to the other parts of the body. The research team also revealed that amyloid beta produced by cancer cells reduces immune responses, which would have otherwise recognized the cancer cells as abnormal and attack them, just like they attack invading bacteria.

Researchers believe that amyloid beta shifts brain immune cells into such a zone where infections are seen fading away and tissues beginning to head, thus helping the cancer cells survive different treatment options.

Additionally, the team also revealed that the treatment used to reduce amyloid beta levels, known as the beta secretase inhibitor LY2886721, reduced the size of the brain melanoma metastases by about half in mice, on which the research was conducted.

Commenting on the study findings, senior study author Eva Hernando, PhD, said, "Our study reveals an unexpected role for tumor-secreted amyloid beta in promoting the survival of melanoma brain metastases, and suggest a new way to counter it."

The latest findings highlight how very little is known about amyloid beta, the main component of deposits found in the brains of Alzheimer patients. In spite of many in-depth studies, its roles in normal function and Alzheimer's disease remain a mystery, even as new proposed roles emerge, said a researcher.

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