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Skin cancer researchers throw new light on tumour growth

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Three researchers from the Dermatology Research Foundation at the University of Sydney have identified a compound produced by certain fatal skin cancer tumours, providing new hope for developing treatments.

A recent paper outlining the research, led by Dr Scott Byrne, has just been named the 2008 Publication of the Year by the journal Immunology and Cell Biology, published by the prestigious Nature Publishing Group (NPG).

Two out of every three Australians will develop skin cancer at some stage during their lifetime, according to Dr Byrne.

"The economic and social costs of treating skin cancer are enormous," he says. "Some skin cancers will spontaneously regress while others will continue to grow and possibly metastasise (which may be fatal)."

Scientists don’t yet understand why some tumours undergo regression and others continue to grow, but Dr Byrne’s team has discovered that the immune system is critically involved in the recognition of tumours and their destruction. "This is why transplant patients on immune suppressive therapy are more prone to getting skin cancers," he notes.

"More specifically, we have shown in this award winning research that skin tumours escaping the immune system do so by secreting a compound called transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta.

"Identifying the tumour-derived compounds responsible for subverting the anti-tumour immune response will enable us to target them therapeutically. This will hopefully lead to novel immune-based therapies designed to make every skin tumour regress, and therefore reduce the ever increasing incidence of skin cancer."

Dr Byrne and his colleagues, Gary Halliday, a Professor in the Sydney Medical School, and Matthew C Knox, who recently undertook his B Med Sci, said they were honoured and thrilled to be awarded the Immunology and Cell Biology journal’s publication of the year.

"It highlights the important research that we are doing here in the Dermatology Research Foundation," says Dr Byrne. "It is only through investigating the fundamental mechanisms of anti-tumour immunity that will we be able to design the next generation of cancer therapeutics."

(Source: University of Sydney: Immunology and Cell Biology: July 2009)

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Posted On: 21 July, 2009
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


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