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Biochemistry Seminar | Dr Cherie Blenkiron, University of Auckland

Unravelling the biology of a rare cancer: a recipe of sunshine, a virus, some immune cells, a few microRNAs and lots of extracellular vesicles

In 2019, around fifty New Zealanders will be diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC), an uncommon form of neuroendocrine tumour that arises in the skin. MCC is however more aggressive in nature than the more common Malignant Melanoma and therefore represents a significant clinical challenge. The etiology of MCC is astounding, with 80% of cases in the Northern Hemisphere driven by the genomic integration of an oncovirus (MCPyV). The remainder are triggered by ultra violet- driven mutations and are proposed to be a more metastatic biological subtype. Due to these etiologies, MCC release abundant neoantigens and in clinical trials show some of the highest rates of response to immunotherapy of any cancer type.

Armed with three tools, extensive clinical data, established cell-lines and precious archival tissue blocks we have been analysing this rare cancer in the New Zealand population. Our approach has been multi-fold. First to review the epidemiology, second to screen for the presence of MCPyV in patient tissues, third to analyse immunological protein expression using a novel method called digital spatial profiling, fourth to assess microRNA abundance as possible prognostic markers of progression and finally to model the cell communication between MCC cells and its stroma in vitro through the analysis of cell shed extracellular vesicles/exosomes. Together this broad approach aims to improve overall biological understanding for development of more accurate diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers and to expand immunotherapy treatment choices for people diagnosed with MCCs in NZ.

Date Tuesday, 16 July 2019
Time 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Audience All University
Event Category Health Sciences
Event Type Seminar
CampusDunedin
DepartmentBiochemistry
LocationBiochemistry Seminar Room 231

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