A team at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California, found that the immune cells in most melanoma patients fail to respond properly to a molecule called interferon, which normally activates the immune system. This failure to respond to interferon means that the immune cells don't fight off melanoma.
Melanoma will kill about 16 percent of the 47,700 people in the United States expected to be diagnosed with this form of skin cancer this year.
"Doctors knew it worked in some people but didn't know why," Lee said in a prepared statement. This study suggests that prolonged interferon treatment may work by overcoming the immune system's inability to respond to interferon.
"We think this is a dominant way that immune dysfunction occurs in people with cancer," Lee said
HealthDay News, May 14, 2007