Scientists at Yale University have identified a set of plasma biomarkers that could reasonably predict the risk of metastasis among patients with melanoma, according to findings published in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
“The rate at which melanoma is increasing is dramatic, and there is a huge number of patients under surveillance,” said Harriet Kluger, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. “Our current method of surveillance includes periodic imaging, which creates huge societal costs.”
Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in men and the seventh most common cancer in women. It is estimated that 68,130 people in the United States were diagnosed in 2010, and 8,700 died. With proper screening, melanoma can often be caught early enough to be removed with surgery, and mortality typically comes when the cancer metastasizes. The risk of metastasis varies from less than 10 percent for those with stage 1A melanoma, to as high as 70 percent with stage 3C.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say antibodies to a non-human sugar molecule commonly found in people may be useful as a future biomarker for predicting cancer risk, for diagnosing cancer cases early and, in sufficient concentration, used as a treatment for suppressing tumor growth.
The work was led by Richard Schwab, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine, and Ajit Varki, MD, professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine, with other faculty at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center and the UCSD Glycobiology Research and Training Center. Collaborators include researchers from the groups of Xi Chen at UC Davis, Inder Verma at the Salk Institute and scientists from Sialix, Inc., a biotechnology company based in Vista, CA.
It is published in the April 19 online issue of the journal Cancer Research and in the May 1 print edition.