PHILADELPHIA — (Oct. 2, 2018) — Changes in the structure of the skin and the lymphatic system that occur with the natural aging process create permissive conditions for melanoma metastasis, according to two studies by The Wistar Institute. These changes are caused by loss of the HAPLN1 protein, which is part of the extracellular matrix, during aging. The studies were published back-to-back in Cancer Discovery.
Older age is a negative prognostic factor for melanoma, associated with higher frequency of development of incurable distant metastasis. Ashani Weeraratna, Ph.D., Ira Brind Professor, and professor and co-leader of the Immunology, Microenvironment and Metastasis Program at Wistar, and team have a long-standing focus on how aging affects the melanoma microenvironment, or the tumor’s ecosystem that includes immune cells, fibroblasts, blood and lymphatic vessels, and signaling molecules, to understand how age-related changes contribute to tumor progression and therapy resistance.
In these new studies, the Weeraratna Lab and collaborators characterized architectural changes that occur in the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the skin and surrounding the lymphatic vessels, which promote the spread of melanoma cells to distant sites by influencing tumor cell and immune cell trafficking. They also discovered a fundamental role played by the HAPLN1
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