Dr. Sergio Roman-Roman talked about recent findings regarding uveal melanoma at the 25th Biennial Congress of the European Association for Cancer Research.
In a brief introduction, Dr. Roman-Roman explained that UM originates in cells that contain melanin (a pigment that is also present in other cells in the body, pe. in the skin). The presentation went on covering current treatment modalities. The debate focused on how good local control of the disease can be achieved by either surgery or radiation. Nevertheless, up to 50 percent of the patients may develop metastases (mainly in the liver), for which no efficient treatment is currently available.
“In the last years the molecular characterization of UM has allowed the identification of the major drivers of the disease and the main deregulated signalling pathways opening the possibility of exploring new therapeutic avenues”, said Dr. Sergio Roman-Roman. This means that we begin to understand the processes that lead a healthy melanin containing uveal cell to develop uveal melanoma. Knowing these mechanisms will not only help a better understanding of UM´s biology but is also crucial to develop new treatment modalities, such as targeted therapy. Targeted therapy is a class of drugs that act by inhibiting specific molecules that are important for tumour growth, halting it´s proliferation.
Due to the potential side-effects of this types of treatment, preclinical studies – where drugs are tested in non-human models – are crucial for the establishing the safety profile of emerging therapies. Patient-Derived Xenografts are models where human cancer cells are transferred to animals whom genetic profile (types of mutations) are known. They allow for continuous monitoring of the natural growth of cancer and to test specific therapies in a controlled environment. In Dr. Roman-Roman’s perspective they will play a crucial role in discovering an eventual cure to metastatic UM.