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Melanoma is one of the most complicated cancers to handle once it reaches the metastatic stage. Common metastatic sites include the lymph nodes, lung, liver, bones and brain. Although plenty of advances have been achieved in the last decade, the underlying molecular mechanisms are still far from being understood.

Dr. Marisol Soengas has focused the last decades into unveiling the mechanisms regulating the spread of melanoma to distant sites, and most importantly, trying to find a way to block them in order to translate these important findings to the clinic.

In 2017, we wrote an article talking about her recent discovery published in Nature, Midkine, a pleiotropic cytokine responsible for the induction of systemic pre-conditioning of distant organs for the formation of tumor metastatic niches. Interestingly, Dr. Soengas has now published in Nature Medicine that Midkine is also capable of modulating the adaptive immune response controlled by the classical interferon-associated pathways via the activation of the NFKB factor leading to T-cell dysfunction and consequently, to pro-tumorigenic functions.

According to Dr. Soengas, Midkine is secreted by melanoma cells to drive an inflamed pro-metastatic microenvironment, capable of evading the immune system, and which is correlated to poor prognosis. Importantly, the blockade of Midkine in melanoma cells has shown a promising response to anti-PD1/PDL1 therapy opening an important therapeutic window in many types of tumors, not only melanoma.