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Modelling metastatic melanoma in zebrafish

Death in all types of melanomas is generally caused by metastasis. Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common intraocular melanoma, there are currently no (patient-derived) animal models that faithfully recapitulate metastatic dissemination of UM.

Groenewoud, A.
07 juni 2022
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Here we generate embryonic zebrafish models for both the primary and disseminated stage of ocular melanoma. In doing so we can recapitulate the etiology of cancer in its totality. Subsequently, we developed a patient-derived zebrafish xenograft (zf-PDX) model, using spheroid cultures generated from metastatic and primary UM tissues. Harnessing this versatile model, we reveal high sensitivity of circulating UM cells to ferroptosis induction in vivo by Erastin and RSL3, implicating ferroptosis as a new potential therapy in metastatic UM.Increased melanin levels in cutaneous melanoma are associated with decreased patient survival. Melanin levels in primary uveal melanoma patient cells positively correlate with their metastatic potential in zebrafish. Modulation of melanin levels of pan-melanoma cells results in enhanced/reduced metastatic potential upon increased or decreased melanin levels, respectively. Melanin depletion sensitizes melanoma cells to ferroptosis inducers in zebrafish leading to a decreased metastatic burden. Collectively, our data identify melanin biosynthetic enzymes as potential future target to treat melanoma and show that melanin protects metastasizing melanoma cells from ferroptosis.

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