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British researchers are celebrating revolutionary findings on how to effectively cure a rare form of eye cancer. These scientists believe the doctors of tomorrow will be able to use a protein naturally produced in the body to cause cancer cells in the eye to commit suicide before metastasis occurs.
This study was conducted at the prestigious University of Liverpool . Researchers looked specifically into the eye cancer called metastatic uveal melanoma (UM). UM forms in the eyes' pigment cells and is currently the most common form of primary eye cancer in adults.
Metastasis refers to the process by which a cancer spreads from one organ to another. The second organ affected need not be directly connected to the primary organ. In the case of UM, doctor’s note that 50 percent of cases metastasize. Most often patients develop malignant tumors in the liver.
The head researcher on this study was Dr. Luminita Paraoan, a professor in the Department of Eye and Vision Science in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease at Liverpool University. Dr. Luminita believes that a combination of p63 and p53 initiate "cell-death" in eyes affected by UM. This "cell-death" is also referred to apoptosis.
Apoptosis simply means "programmed cell death." Malignant tumors are very difficult to be destroyed using this method, but Dr. Luminita believes she has cracked the code for UM with these proteins.
The protein p63 is found within the 3rd chromosome of our DNA. Researchers in Liverpool discovered that most people with serious UM don't have p63, which prevents the protein from initiating apoptosis.
Turning now to p53, this protein is a well-known tumor suppressor gene that mutates when cancer is present in the body. This protein is protective and works to keep cell division at stable rates throughout the body. Unfortunately, this protein by itself cannot destroy a cancerous tumor. When p53 becomes mutated, cells in the body are no longer checked and tumors form.
Luminita told reporters that this study proves there needs to the p63 present to start the apoptosis process. Only p53 will not kill off the cells that have formed in the eyes of a UM patient.
Talking with reporters about her findings, Dr. Luminita said this study was the first to discover the need for p63 to start apoptosis in UM. She also said this research could have powerful effects on the future of cancer research. Dr. Luminita is hopeful this discovery might help people develop therapies for cancers that currently don't respond well to chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
People can review the specifics of this study in the latest issue of the British Journal of Cancer.