Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and its numbers are increasing. Deaths from skin cancer are due mostly to melanoma, whose numbers are also increasing. Thin melanomas (less than 1 mm in thickness) removed by surgery are associated with normal life, but thicker melanomas (more than 4 mm) are considered to have already spread to lymph nodes or distant organs, and cannot be cured by available treatments. Having discovered melanoma to contain molecules preventing the immune system from killing the tumor, we will study how to counteract these molecules so the immune system can better fight this deadly cancer.
Melanoma is an important cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States, including patients seen and managed at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Despite recent advances in our knowledge of melanoma genetics and immunobiology, much remains to be learned. Having discovered a molecular pathway consisting of DC-HIL on melanoma and syndecan-4 on T cells, whose binding disables the immune system from optimally fighting the tumor, we will test the hypotheses that this pathway can be manipulated for therapeutic gain.