Researchers at Tel Aviv University say they’ve discovered the pathway that causes melanoma to spread to the brain, and they think they can stop it.
The researchers set out to find out how these cells spread to the brain and how this transmission could be halted. In their work, they took mice with spontaneous melanoma brain metastasis and studied how it reacted with the brain.
Astrocytes are among the most abundant cells in the brain tissue. Their role is to protect the brain and maintain its function through tissue repair. If astrocyte cells sense tissue damage, such as a stroke, they set off an alarm and start secreting inflammatory factors that attract immune cells to the brain.
“We discovered that these melanoma cells can activate these inflammatory pathways that lead to the brain, and then hijack this pathway,” said Erez in a phone interview. “They trigger the inflammatory secretions, and then take advantage of this pathway which helps them enter the brain.”
When the researchers used genetic manipulation to neutralize the receptors in the melanoma cells, they successfully blocked the ability of the tumor cells to respond to the astrocyte signaling. “The development of brain metastases was significantly inhibited,” the university said in a statement.