Survival for late-stage, metastatic melanoma has significantly improved in the last six years due to the introduction of numerous targeted and immune-based therapies. Demonstrating that our investment into medical research is having significant returns, these drugs have boosted the three-year survival rate from 25% to 60%.
Despite this, upfront and acquired drug resistance remains a significant concern and is limiting positive treatment responses and reducing patient survival.
Recently, Dr Ken Dutton-Regester and others within the international research community have shown that melanoma cells within a tumour can exist in ‘drug-sensitive’ or ‘drug-resistant’ cell-states (defined as the type of genes that are expressed within a cell at any given point in time). Not surprisingly, the proportion of these cells within a patient’s tumour determines whether they will respond positively or negatively to our current therapies. Furthermore, it has been shown that melanoma cells can change their state of being during treatment, whereby melanomas can turn from ‘drug-sensitive’ into ‘drug-resistant’ cell states throughout the duration of the treatment.
To address this significant issue, Dr Dutton-Regester has been working to identify how melanoma cells can switch between cell-states, with the goal of using this information to develop new strategies to turn ‘drug-resistant’ cells into ‘drug-sensitive’ cells. He has already had exciting success in this endeavour, identifying a genetic mutation that can explain how 30% of melanomas become ‘drug-resistant’.
Dr Dutton-Regester, in collaboration with colleagues at QIMR Berghofer and around Australia, is now looking to perform the necessary experiments to convert these findings into positive survival outcomes for patients by either delaying the occurrence of drug-resistance, or by priming their tumours to respond favourably to our current drug therapies.
'Your contribution, regardless of the amount, can have a massive impact in helping us translate our findings into meaningful outcomes for the thousands of Australians diagnosed with late-stage melanoma each year.'