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New Method of Melanoma Development May Lead to Cure
Katherine Jordan

Scientists at the Diamantina Institute in Queensland have linked a cellular process to the formation of melanoma, a discovery that may lead to a cure for melanoma patients. In Australia, melanoma is responsible for 10% of all reported cancers and 3% of cancerrelated deaths, caused by Australia’s weather and outdoor lifestyle leading to high ultraviolet radiation exposure. Ultraviolet radiation causes damage to DNA, which, when not repaired, affects processes within the cell and causes skin cells, in this case, melanoblasts, to multiply rapidly and form tumours. In healthy cells exposed to UV radiation, a checkpoint causes the cell cycle to pause after radiation exposure to allow the cell to fix the damage caused to the DNA. However, this study has revealed that this pause-and-repair does not take place in the majority of melanoma tumours, allowing the damaged cells that form tumours to survive. This checkpoint is in addition to another DNA repair mechanism that is lost in many cancer types but functional in most melanomas. This research indicates that both mechanisms are essential to healthy cells. Matthew Wigan, under Brian Gabrielli, exposed melanoma cells to UV radiation and determined whether the checkpoint was functional within the tumour cells. He also determined some of the functions behind the pause, such as detection and repair, and confirmed that the loss of the checkpoint leads to DNA mutations and eventually, cancer. The Gabrielli lab is now focused on determining how the damaged cells escape repair, despite most melanomas still having the ability to repair damage to their DNA. The lab is also attempting to determine exactly how the pause occurs and how it is lost, and also how the loss of the mechanism can be prevented or repaired. If the mechanisms can be determined and altered, this may provide a cure, treatment or early detection system for melanoma. If a melanoma growth is detected early and removed, the patient has an above 90% chance of survival. If undetected, late-stage melanoma survival rates drop gradually to around 15%. These percentages have been improving over the last forty years, but new treatments and detection systems are required to raise the survival rate even further.
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SCIE3001 Daily News

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Prevention methods have also improved, with sun-safe campaigns like the eighties slip-slopslap producing a drop in the amount of Queenslanders under 40 being diagnosed. However, worldwide statistics have shown that more young people are being diagnosed now than thirty years ago, leading to sun protection programs being released in many different countries. Prevention of melanoma is still the best method of curing the problem, while treatments and cures should be considered a last resort. Lowering the exposure of skin to the sun can lower the chance of too many DNA mutations occurring and preventing the cells from being able to repair the damage. The body generally repairs UV damage to DNA, which occurs on a regular basis, but when too much damage occurs, the body can’t keep up. There is also evidence that when repairs are made too often, the repair mechanisms break down. While not as reliable as preventing melanoma altogether, preventing tumours from becoming dangerous with early detection methods also means far better outcomes. There is an increased risk of melanoma among people with fair skin or low-functioning immune systems, and those with previous personal or family history of any type of skin cancer. Cancer specialists recommend that those at risk examine their body for new or changing lumps every month, and everyone to check every six months. They also recommend a full check-up once a year. Melanoma tumours appear as dark, uneven lumps on the skin that are often multi-coloured and larger than 6mm (¼ inch). They will also change over time as the cancer progresses. This study has revealed a possible avenue for melanoma treatment or cure, but meanwhile, it is essential that everyone take care when spending time in the sun.

Paper title: SCIE3001 Newspaper article
Paper ID: 348468530
Author: Katherine Jordan

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