The grant awarded by the National Cancer Institute will enable researchers to further explore how small cellular vesicles promote melanoma metastasis. Although there have been some advances in the treatment of melanoma, therapies targeting specific mutations in this deadly cancer have only achieved low response rates, and a significant percentage of patients still go on to develop metastasis.
The research team led by Suzie Chen, PhD, and James S. Goydos, MD, FACS, recently found that in cell lines of human melanoma there is an abnormal expression of the metabotropic glutamate receptor GMR1, indicating a possible link with melanoma development. Furthermore, GMR1 has been found to have an implication in the development and spread of melanoma. Researchers are now investigating if cancer cells with activated GMR1 enable the production of exosomes, which are thought to work as “communicators” between melanoma cells and the tumor microenvironment. The main goal is to understand how these exosomes are formed and how they promote melanoma metastasis.
“By elucidating the mechanism behind these exosomes, we are further building on our knowledge of GRM1 which is critical in helping to identify new anti-cancer therapies for melanoma patients,” Dr. Chen, Cancer Institute member and professor of chemical biology at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, said in a recent news release.
The research will evaluate pre- and post treatment in three different trials exploring the efficacy of riluzole, a drug found to block activation of the GRM1 protein. The goal is to understand the relationship between exosome production and the biologic response in melanoma.
“The spread of melanoma typically leaves patients with a poor prognosis. Combined with the progress we have seen in clinical trials examining the effects of riluzole in melanoma patients, further knowledge of exosomes and the role they play in melanoma metastasis will help us shape future studies,” explained Dr. Goydos, director of the Melanoma and Soft Tissue Oncology Program at the Cancer Institute and professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.