TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — Researchers at Tel Aviv University have made a landmark discovery on melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer that kills a person every 52 minutes.

“The threat of melanoma is not in the initial tumor that appears on the skin, but rather in its metastasis — in the tumor cells sent off to colonize in vital organs like the brain, lungs, liver and bones,” Science Daily quoted research leader Dr. Carmit Levy of the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine as saying.

Melanoma forms in the epidermis of the skin. At this stage, the cancer cells are not able to spread as they have no access to blood vessels.

Scientists discovered that the cancer sends out tiny vesicles containing microRNA to the dermis layer, even before its own penetration.

The vesicles induce changes in the dermis, including features of cancer-associated fibroblasts. The changes enable the dermis to absorb the cancer cells.

The scientists also found two chemicals that could stop the spread of melanoma in its initial stages, with one chemical capable of stopping the vesicles from being sent to the dermis and the other capable of preventing the reaction to the vesicles in the dermis.

The research was published in journal Nature Cell Biology.

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