• Treating Melanoma with the Help of Chromatography

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Treating Melanoma with the Help of Chromatography

Feb 15 2015

Most people enjoy some time in the sun and while a little sunlight is good for us — helping to generate vitamin D — too much sun can be harmful. The sting of sunburnt skin is painful, but the effects of too much sun can also result in something far more serious — melanoma and possibly death.

Most people are at some risk for melanoma, but for most the risk is relatively low. Factors that can affect the likelihood of contracting melanoma include: sun exposure, the number of moles on your skin, skin type and genetic factors. What is melanoma though?


Melanoma is a form of skin cancer — one of the most dangerous forms causing the most deaths even though it is not the commonest form of skin cancer. There are different types of melanoma categorized by where and how they develop and grow. Some melanomas can spread quite easily to other organs — causing cancerous growths in other areas of the body — which may then be difficult to treat and cure. But if a melanoma is recognized and treated quickly — see this NHS guide to melanomas — they are usually curable.

Melanomas develop when DNA damage in skin cells is not repaired — UV in sunlight causes DNA damage which is why sunlight is a factor in skin cancers. The DNA damage causes mutations — a genetic defect — to develop which can subsequently cause the skin cells to multiply rapidly leading to a cancerous growth.

Treating Melanoma

There are several treatments for melanoma — depending on the type and size of the melanoma. For melanomas that are found quickly — a simple surgical procedure is enough to remove the cancerous skin cells. But sometimes advanced treatments are necessary such as this vaccine discussed in Chromatography Today: Melanoma Vaccine Clinical Trial Enlisting Patients

One of the advanced treatments is known as ‘targeted therapy’. These use drugs to attack the cancer cells or to inhibit the cancer cells growth by targeting the proteins and enzymes they need to survive. A key genes for skin cells is the BRAF gene — this produces a regulating protein that tells skin cells when to grow. But a mutation of the gene produces an abnormal protein that tells the cells to grow continually — producing a malignant growth.

One of the targeted therapy’s acts to inhibit the BRAF gene, and these have been successful in reducing tumours. But sometimes the tumours can develop resistance to the drugs — reducing the effectiveness of the treatment.

Chromatography Helps to Combat Drug Resistance

A team at the Moffitt Cancer Center have used liquid chromatography linked with mass spectrometry to analyse 80 proteins linked to melanoma development and resistance to targeted therapies. By measuring these biomarkers the researchers can determine whether a therapy is reducing the cancer or whether a new therapy is needed. The research was published in Molecular and Cellular Proteomics and could lead to a simple test that can help ultimately save lives.

Make sure the sun cream is liberally applied 30 minutes before exposure.

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