Switzerland is among the countries with the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, with the rate of this deadly disease constantly increasing. Significant advances have been made over the last few years in melanoma treatment. Despite initial dramatic response to drugs designed to target specific activated molecules in these tumours, the clinical benefit is very often transient, due to rapid development of resistance. More recently, alternative therapy approaches based on activation of the immune system can be very successful, but unfortunately in only 20-25% of patients. Together with the persisting need for improved treatment, there is an urgency to devise more effective ways to prevent melanoma development, for treatment of premalignant melanotic lesions and suppression of “secondary melanomas” that can appear after removal of the primary tumour.
The incidence of many cancer types in organs with non-reproductive functions, including melanoma, is significantly higher in the male than female populations, with a lower survival. A better appreciation of the differences between the two sexes can be of substantial value for both melanoma prevention and treatment. Current efforts of ICPI, in the Dotto’s laboratory in collaboration with oncologist Berna Ozdemir, are focused on investigating the interplay between sex hormones and chromosomes in the early steps of melanoma development and how this knowledge can be used for novel pharmacological approaches of clinical significance.