New targets for skin cancer prevention

Rebecca Morris Although bone marrow cells can help people with certain cancers, there may also be rare cells that play a detrimental role in non-melanoma skin cancers.  

Rebecca Morris, Ph.D., from the Hormel Institute/University of Minnesota, and Alexander Meves, M.D., from the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Dermatology, have found that certain bone marrow cells are attracted to some benign skin cancer cells, which may lead to those skin cancer cells becoming malignant.

Alexander MeavesWith Masonic support, Morris and Meves are exploring whether interfering with the recruitment of bone marrow cells to non-melanoma skin cancer cells prevents malignancy. They believe that a specific recruiting molecule called an “alarmin” may play a key role in this process and are testing different therapies in mouse models that could prevent its damage.

“We are very honored to receive support for our pilot study, which will hopefully lead to improved prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of certain non-melanoma skin cancers.”

After learning more about the promise of certain treatments, the next big step for Morris and Meves is to determine if this approach could work against certain skin and epithelial cancers in people.

To move closer to this goal, they submitted a proposal for significant funding to the National Institutes of Health, a milestone that may not have been possible without the Masons’ early support through the Minnesota Chemoprevention Consortium Award.

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