Ongoing research aims to curb skin cancer rates
A unique melanoma biobank and research data bank is being built to better understand melanoma. Lund Melanoma Study Group is building the banks and learns how to target treatment and develop new diagnostic tools. Their research is partly enabled by donations from Medicon Village´s ownership foundation.
One in three gets cancer. The trend points towards it being one in two within a few years – and skin cancer rates rise faster than any other cancer rates. The rising rates of melanoma was in the spotlight at World Melanoma Week, 15-19 May, and with nearly 4000 patients diagnosed with invasive melanoma in 2015, melanoma is among the top five most commonly diagnosed cancers.
- The Paulsson donation to our group has been very valuable and very good, as it has enabled us to work at the pace we currently want and to enrol new PhD-students, and so on, says Christian Ingvar, project manager at Lund Melanoma Study Group (LGSM), professor in surgery at Lund University and consultant at Skåne University Hospital.
Donations pave the way to a unique biobank at Medicon Village
The multidisciplinary group´s, LGSM, work spans from the clinic to the lab bench. In one project, BioMEL, the group tries to understand in part why an aggressive melanoma develops and, in part, the treatment response. The donation supports this study.
- This lets us continue with the research and enabled us to start the BioMel project – with all overhead costs as well as enrolling PhD students and research nurses in the project, says Kari Nielsen, researcher at LMSG and dermatologist at Skåne University Hospital.
Now the BioMel project is in the midst of collecting blood samples and skin samples on pigmented tumours from patients, to build a biobank at Medicon Village, along with collecting a range of additional information on the patients, mainly epidemiological information and images of the skin, to create a research data bank. The information could for example be on the patient´s life style.
- This is very unique, in particular to have fresh tumour tissue from primary melanoma, Kari Nielsen points out.
Using dermatoscopy, a skin microscope, the multidisciplinary group can make a read of the tumour before operation, so that the biopsy is done in the right place. Additionally, and in contrast to most conventional samples, LMSG´s samples are not stored in paraffin. Their frozen samples therefore allow for more information at a molecular level when brought to the lab for analysis.
- The intention is that this can lead to us finding biomarkers and dermatoscopic clues that better can predict prognosis and better predict which response you get from treatments, because today they are lacking, Kari Nielsen explains.
Cancer research at the frontiers of the field
LMSG links tumour biology with heredity and risk factors. In addition to melanoma research several of the team members also do research on breast cancer. The team consists of Lund University researchers in surgery, oncology, epidemiology, dermatology and pathology working with molecular biologists, statisticians and physicians.
- We are the leading researchers in the field and are part of many international networks that work with in particular the melanoma disease in various spectra, says Christian Ingvar.
One of the renowned Lund University researchers in LMSG is Göran Jönsson, also associate professor at the medical faculty, whose lab is located at Medicon Village.
- We have shown intra tumour heterogeneity in metastasis from melanoma patients and those levels of molecular heterogeneity correlates to how aggressive the course of the disease is, says Göran Jönsson.
This progress in the recent year means they see levels of diversity within the tumour spreading from the melanoma and, that these diversities are a hallmark of the disease´s developmental stages –from a mole into an aggressive melanoma that leads to a fatal outcome.
With no reliable cure today, melanoma death rates, however, can be cut with increased awareness.
- If the patients come in time, in the early phase of the disease, they will be cured with a simple excision, says Kari Nielsen. Therefore it is very important not to ignore alarm signals for melanoma, skin cancer is visible!
By Tanja Jensen, science writer
Donations to ground breaking cancer research at Medicon Village
Research teams at Medicon Village have on multiple occasions been granted donations from Medicon Village´s ownership foundation, Mats Paulsson Foundation for Research, Innovation and Societal Development. The largest donations have been to teams bridging disciplines, such as LMSG.
Make a Difference for Cancer is also one of these teams. Their tightly connected researchers and physicians promise swift application of new findings within personalized medicine. Others also creating opportunities for personalized medicine are the research teams headed by Lisa Rydén and Åke Borg respectively. They got a donation earlier this year for their research to characterize cancer cells and diagnose cancer at an earlier stage than what is possible today.