The main cause for cancer-related deaths is metastasis. The tumors disseminate early during cancer progression, sometimes even before a cancer diagnosis, forming micrometastatic foci at distant organs. Early detection of micrometastases is challenging due to the small size of metastatic foci. There is a strong need to develop tools that can not only predict micrometastases' development but also their distant site of formation. The tumor cells suffer extreme attrition after dissemination to metastatic sites and therefore an organotropic molecular signature in melanoma cells at the time of dissemination from the primary site can promote development of micrometastatic foci.
These researchers hypothesize that invasive melanoma cells in the skin acquire organotropic molecular signatures that promote their survival and growth at distant sites. They are testing this hypothesis by utilizing spatial transcriptomics (ST) technology to evaluate the gene signature of melanoma cells in human melanoma skin biopsies. They evaluate cutaneous melanoma biopsy samples of patients with advanced melanoma for molecular signatures that favor growth at distant sites by comparing them with signatures in melanoma cells from matched brain and visceral metastases. They anticipate generating a narrow list of organotropic genes whose induction in early stage melanoma cells in the skin can predict organ-specific micrometastases formation. This will be a breakthrough micrometastatic prediction tool that when followed with therapeutic intervention will prevent clinically detectable metastasis that has a poor 5-year survival rate.