Expression of Cancer Stem Cell Markers in Metastatic Melanoma to the Brain

Authors: Agadha C. Wickremesekera, Helen D. Brasch, Valerie M Lee, Paul F. Davis, Kelvin Woon, Reuben Johnson, Swee T. Tan and Tinte Itinteang

Journal of Clinical Neuroscience. (in press 2018). doi.org/10.1016 /j.jocn.2018.10.068

Up to 30% of melanoma tumours metastasise to the brain and between 5%-8% of all brain tumours have originated from melanomas. For many years the median survival period of patients with metastatic melanoma to the brain has remained at 6-9 months following conventional treatments. The short period of remission has been attributed to the initiation, propagation and differentiation of cancer stem cells that possess the ability to undergo uncontrolled growth and propagation.

The cancer stem cell concept proposes that a small population of cancer stem cells are the driving force of cancer growth. The presence of cancer stem cells has been demonstrated in a number of cancers, including melanomas. In collaboration with the Department of Neurosurgery at the Wellington Regional Hospital, the GMRI team has discovered three cancer stem cell subpopulations in metastatic melanoma to the brain, suggesting the presence of a hierarchy amongst the cancer stem cells, similar to what we have found in glioblastoma. The characterisation of these cells raises the possibility of providing a therapeutic target for these metastatic tumours.