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Renalase: uncloaking melanoma cancer cells

May 10, 2016
by Vicky Agnew

Eleven years ago, Yale scientist Gary Desir MD and his team were conducting heart disease research when they discovered a naturally occurring protein circulating at high levels in plasma. Since the protein was secreted by the kidneys and metabolized adrenaline, they named it renalase and gave it a closer look.

It wasn’t long before the team realized that renalase held the potential to play a key role as a cancer biomarker since many cancer cells synthesize and secrete it. Fast forward to 2016, Desir and his team now know that excessive levels of renalase help some cancers grow. In a paper published May 10th online in the journal Cancer Research, they now show that anti-renalase therapy can also be used to treat melanoma in mice.

These findings complement a paper published by the team in March in the journal Scientific Reports showing that blocking the action of renalase is also effective in treating pancreatic cancer in mice.

“In our most recent paper, we show that renalase downregulates the immnune response to cancer, and when it is blocked, tumor cells become more visible to the immune system and they can be destroyed much more efficiently.” said Desir. “We have developed several inhibitory monoclonal antibodies against renalase, which can kill melanoma cells and treat these tumors.”

These findings provide a framework to further delineate the role of anti renalase therapy for the treatment of malignant melanoma, alone or with other melanoma inhibiting drugs. They also pave the way for investigating whether anti renalase immunotherapy therapy could be beneficial in the management of other cancers.

Submitted by Renee Gaudette on May 10, 2016