Melanoma of the skin is the sixth most common type of cancer in Europe and accounts for 3.4% of all diagnosed cancers. More alarming is the degree of recurrence that occurs with approximately 20% of patients lethally relapsing following treatment. Malignant melanoma is a highly aggressive skin cancer and metastases rapidly extend to the regional lymph nodes (stage 3) and to distal organs (stage 4). Targeted oncotherapy is one of the standard treatment for progressive stage 4 melanoma, and BRAF inhibitors (e.g. vemurafenib, dabrafenib) combined with MEK inhibitor (e.g. trametinib) can effectively counter BRAFV600E-mutated melanomas. Compared to conventional chemotherapy, targeted BRAFV600E inhibition achieves a significantly higher response rate. After a period of cancer control, however, most responsive patients develop resistance to the therapy and lethal progression. The many underlying factors potentially causing resistance to BRAF inhibitors have been extensively studied. Nevertheless, the remaining unsolved clinical questions necessitate alternative research approaches to address the molecular mechanisms underlying metastatic and treatment-resistant melanoma. In broader terms, proteomics can address clinical questions far beyond the reach of genomics, by measuring, i.e. the relative abundance of protein products, post-translational modifications (PTMs), protein localisation, turnover, protein interactions and protein function. More specifically, proteomic analysis of body fluids and tissues in a given medical and clinical setting can aid in the identification of cancer biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets. Achieving this goal requires the development of a robust and reproducible clinical proteomic platform that encompasses automated biobanking of patient samples, tissue sectioning and histological examination, efficient protein extraction, enzymatic digestion, mass spectrometry–based quantitative protein analysis by label-free or labelling technologies and/or enrichment of peptides with specific PTMs. By combining data from, e.g. phosphoproteomics and acetylomics, the protein expression profiles of different melanoma stages can provide a solid framework for understanding the biology and progression of the disease. When complemented by proteogenomics, customised protein sequence databases generated from patient-specific genomic and transcriptomic data aid in interpreting clinical proteomic biomarker data to provide a deeper and more comprehensive molecular characterisation of cellular functions underlying disease progression. In parallel to a streamlined, patient-centric, clinical proteomic pipeline, mass spectrometry–based imaging can aid in interrogating the spatial distribution of drugs and drug metabolites within tissues at single-cell resolution. These developments are an important advancement in studying drug action and efficacy in vivo and will aid in the development of more effective and safer strategies for the treatment of melanoma. A collaborative effort of gargantuan proportions between academia and healthcare professionals has led to the initiation, establishment and development of a cutting-edge cancer research centre with a specialisation in melanoma and lung cancer. The primary research focus of the European Cancer Moonshot Lund Center is to understand the impact that drugs have on cancer at an individualised and personalised level. Simultaneously, the centre increases awareness of the relentless battle against cancer and attracts global interest in the exceptional research performed at the centre.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Keiryn L. Bennett, Ph.D., from the sciGig Scientific Consulting and Editing, Vienna, Austria, for the extensive editing and proofreading of this manuscript.
© 2019, The Author(s).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis