Neurological Foundation Gillespie Postgraduate Scholarship


Akshata Anchan
Department of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Auckland

Migration of metastatic melanoma cells across the blood brain barrier and manipulation of brain microenvironment via checkpoint blockade

How do melanoma cancer cells migrate into the brain and survive by avoiding our defensive immune system?

The brain is a preferential metastatic site for several types of cancer including melanoma. Melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, and New Zealand has one of the highest incidence rates in the world. While melanoma is more common in people over 50 years of age, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in 15 - 29 year olds. People with metastasised melanoma (where the cancer has spread from the original tumour site) have limited survival, especially when the destructive melanoma cells metastasise to the brain. Because the brain is an extensively defended organ, it is of great interest to researchers how cancer cells manage to invade the protective blood-brain barrier. The specificities of how this happens are not well studied in human cells. Ms Anchan’s research aims to investigate human melanoma cells to discover the key components that allow them to 1: migrate into the brain and 2: survive within the brain by avoiding our defensive immune system. Ms Anchan hopes to follow this study by researching ways to block these processes.