Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research in London have found that certain skin cancer cells may respond differently to treatments depending on their size. Using high-powered imaging to gauge how genetic changes affect the size of millions of melanoma cells caused by mutations in the BRAF or NRAS genes, the researchers discovered that smaller cells contained higher levels of proteins that repair DNA, making them more vulnerable to drugs that block DNA repair, particularly when combined with chemotherapy. Larger cells, on the other hand, contained damage to their DNA and were less reliant on DNA repair techniques, making chemotherapy less effective. However, they may respond better to immunotherapy.
This new understanding could help doctors predict an individual’s drug response and create a treatment strategy based on the size of melanoma cells, lessening the side effects experienced by some people while taking cancer drugs. The researchers are now investigating whether similar results could apply to head and neck cancers.