We’ve helped to fund the work of Professor Richard Marais for over a three year period, donating £50,000. Professor Richard Marais is Director of Cancer Research UK’s Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester. He is an expert in the underlying causes of melanoma. His team is looking at how cells communicate with one another and how faults in these messages can cause this disease, with a particular focus on the BRAF protein.
It was known that faults in the BRAF gene contribute to the spread of around half of all melanomas: but this new research shows that BRAF actually has a ‘double whammy’ effect, not only causing melanomas, but also encouraging them to spread around the body. Faulty BRAF stops another gene PDE5A from working.
PDE5A acts as a brake in healthy cells to stop cell movement; the first step in cancer spread. But in cancer cells, BRAF turns PDE5A off, removing it’s ability to block the cancer cells from starting to move and spread. By blocking the activity of PDE5A, BRAF drives skin cancer cells to invade new tissues and spread further around the body, converting melanoma into a more aggressive disease.