Study Rationale: Having melanoma increases the risk for Parkinson's disease (PD)—and vice versa. The cellular basis for this association is not known. To identify the key cellular events that enhance this shared risk, we will develop a microscopic approach for examining how melanoma progression is altered in a preclinical model of PD.
Hypothesis: We hypothesize that defining the key events that drive transitions between the stages in melanoma progression will reveal how changes in dynamics or timing can promote shared risk between melanoma and PD.
Study Design: Taking advantage of new developments in tissue preparation, imaging, and image analysis, we aim to develop a microscopy-based strategy for characterizing the cellular dynamics of melanoma tumors. Next, we will use these methods to assess these dynamics in tumors that are pre-invasive or at different stages of progression in a preclinical model that harbors one of the most potent risk factors for PD. This strategy will allow us to quantify and compare interrelationships between nerve cells, vasculature and tumor-associated macrophages (immune cells) over time.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease: This study will help us to define key events driving melanoma progression and reveal how changes in dynamics or timing might drive shared risk between melanoma and PD. Our results will serve as the basis for testing combined therapies using agents that have been approved for clinical use.
Next Steps for Development: These data will provide a platform that can be used by any lab to identify signatures of increased risk for melanoma and PD and to test novel combinatorial treatment strategies.