Studies: Therapy resistance to black skin cancer increases with age

Studies: Therapy resistance to black skin cancer increases with age

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Researchers discovered the mechanism of resistance formation in black skin cancer
Thanks to modern therapies, skin cancer can be treated even better with advanced tumors. However, sooner or later many patients develop resistance and the disease progresses, according to the current report from the Essen University Hospital. An international team of researchers with the participation of the Medical Faculty of the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) at the University Hospital Essen has now discovered a new mechanism of resistance development in black skin cancer.

Understanding the mechanisms of resistance formation in black skin cancer could open up new options for successful treatment, according to the researchers. The identification of the hitherto unknown resistance mechanism, which does not originate directly from the tumor cells themselves, could explain why, especially older patients, targeted melanoma therapy often does not have the desired effect. The researchers have published their results in the journal "Nature".

20,000 illnesses per year in Germany
According to the University Hospital Essen, more than 20,000 people develop black skin cancer in Germany every year - and the trend is rising. The disease claims an estimated 3,500 deaths per year, affecting patients of all ages. "Since 2012, targeted therapeutics have been used in Germany to treat advanced black skin cancer," reports the Essen University Hospital. In about 70 percent of the treated patients, the tumor could be suppressed with their help. In about half of the patients, however, the disease could return after only one year.

sFRP2 increases the aggressiveness of melanoma diseases
In their study, the researchers investigated the question of why the response time to the therapy varies so much among the patients. According to the University of Essen, it was already known that the soluble factor sFRP2 increases the aggressiveness of the melanoma disease. This is formed by connective tissue cells in the vicinity of the tumor cells. The researchers found that, interestingly, older connective tissue cells release higher levels of sFRP2 than younger ones, reports the university hospital. This mechanism was then examined in more detail in cell culture experiments and in the mouse model. “It was shown, among other things, that sFRP2 increasingly forms reactive oxygen species that cause further DNA damage in the tumor cells and thus genetic instability,” the researchers explain.

Older people respond poorly to therapy
Regarding the effect of sFRP2 on therapy, the scientists report that targeted melanoma therapy is less effective in older mice than in younger ones. This was also confirmed when evaluating the data from a large patient population. "The younger the patients were at the start of therapy, the more the tumor was pushed back," said the university hospital. "Our observation shows once again that the interaction of tumors with their surroundings is crucially involved in tumor development and influences the effectiveness of therapies," emphasizes Dr. Bastian Schilling, one of the study authors.

According to the new findings, demographic factors have a significant impact on the success of therapy for black skin cancer. With the increasing average age of the population, the previous treatment methods could become increasingly ineffective. "However, these results will not result in us withholding targeted melanoma therapy from older patients," emphasizes Professor Dirk Schadendorf, director of the Department of Dermatology at the University Hospital Essen. (fp)

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