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ACS Research Highlights

Uncovering a Connection Between Melanoma-Brain Metastasis and Alzheimer’s Disease

This study focuses on the role of amyloid processing protein which is linked with Alzheimer's disease in melanoma brain metastases. 

The Challenge

In some cases, melanoma can spread, or metastasize, to the brain. Researchers don’t fully understand how melanoma cells travel to and grow in the brain to form new tumors. Currently, there are few treatments available for brain metastasis.

The Research

While studying a melanoma tumor that had metastasized and formed in the brain, Eva Hernando, PhD, and her team discovered something unexpected. They found unusually high levels of proteins that are related to Alzheimer’s disease, including one called amyloid processing protein (APP).

Normally, APP plays a role in nerve function of many tissues and organs throughout the body. But certain changes that can happen in APP have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Hernando’s team found that APP is also essential for melanoma cells to adapt to the brain.

Hernando is studying:

  • How APP affects melanoma growth in the brain.
  • Whether treatments that focus on APP could work for melanoma in the brain by testing substances in mice that are already being tested in Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Whether brain metastases from other types of cancer, such as lung and breast cancer, need APP to grow. 

Why It Matters

As soon as Hernando’s team finishes their mice studies, they hope to rapidly start testing it in people who have melanoma brain metastases, since the substances involved have already been through safety testing in humans. If this work is successful, it may change how brain metastases are treated and may improve the outcomes of people with certain types of metastatic tumors.