World Cancer Day cancer research roundup

The statistics about the prevalence of cancer can be disheartening. Over 10 million people die each year from cancer, making it one of the leading causes of death — and unfortunately, researchers have yet to find a cure for many cancers.

However, experts today know more about cancer than ever before; screening, diagnostics, and treatment options have all developed tremendously throughout the years. In honor of World Cancer Day on February 4, we wanted to highlight some recent breakthroughs that pertain to cancer prevention and treatment.

A key protein in the spread of skin cancer has been identified 

Melanoma is not as common as other types of skin cancer, but it is more dangerous than most. Melanoma cells metastasize (spread) by squeezing through gaps in tissues, where they can then begin to grow in many of the body’s organs.

Recent research has shown that melanoma cells adept at metastasizing express more of the protein LAP1, and cells with higher levels of LAP1 can spread more easily than others. This has exciting implications for future treatment options, as targeting this protein may have an effect on how fast cancer cells are able to spread. 

New implications for cancer treatment from mRNA technology

The molecule that carries a cell’s instructions for making proteins is known as messenger RNA (mRNA). When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it became the perfect opportunity for mRNA vaccine technology to be put into the spotlight — and what researchers have learned might have implications for cancer treatment, too. 

Many cancer-treating immunotherapies stimulate the immune response in a general way, but mRNA technology may make it possible to train the body to fight cancer directly. Researchers are even examining the possibility of providing personalized mRNA vaccines designed to target specific tumors, which could teach a person’s immune system how to specifically target abnormal cells.

Scientists create first human bone marrow “organoids”

Blood cancers have traditionally been difficult to research and understand, because they require the use of experimental systems that closely replicate how real bone marrow works. This has stifled progress, as many cancerous cells are difficult to maintain outside of the human body. 

By creating human bone marrow “organoids,” researchers now have the capability to do more testing regarding anti-cancer drugs and personalized cancer treatment than ever before. “We hope that this new technique will help accelerate the discovery and testing of new blood cancer treatments, getting improved drugs for our patients to clinical trials faster,” said senior study author Professor Bethan Psaila, a hematology medical doctor and Research Group leader. 

Cancer research breakthroughs are only possible when people take part in clinical trials. Participants can receive specialized care, access new potential treatments, and help the patients of the future — if you’d like to learn more, click the button below.