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Permanently stopped cell division can become a new therapy against skin cancer

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet will investigate whether one of the body's natural defence mechanisms against cancer, senescence, can be used to treat one of our most common cancer forms.

Skin cancer, melanoma, is one of the rapidly increasing tumour diseases and the form of skin cancer that claims most lives. It is the second most common form of cancer in both men and women. Every year 2,800 people in Sweden are stricken with melanoma and 500 people die from the disease.

Stimulates the immune defence

Several tailored, targeted treatment methods against cancer have developed in recent years. These medicines work by specifically inhibiting the molecular signalling systems that are overactive in tumours, and which affect the formation and growth of the tumours. They can also act by stimulating the body's own immune defence against the tumour cells. Skin cancer, melanoma, is one of the cancer forms where this new type of treatment has had the best effect. After decades of the same, ineffective treatments for melanoma that has spread in the body, metastatic melanoma, several new alternative targeted and immunostimulatory treatments are now being tested.

One of the body's main defence mechanisms against cancer is senescence, which means that the cell permanently stops dividing. Substances are released during senescence that attract cells from the immune defence to remove the senescent cells.

"Senescence treatment is a new field within tumour biology, and we want to investigate whether senescence therapy together with immunotherapy provide a synergistic effect that can improve the treatment of metastatic melanoma," says Lars-Gunnar Larsson.