UC Merced researchers helping find new ways to treat melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, but now researchers at UC Merced are helping find new, improved ways to treat it.
MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Researchers at UC Merced analyzed DNA from hundreds of melanoma tumors to figure out specifically what drives the disease. They say it could ultimately help treat this form of cancer and others.

Dr. Fabian Filipp is on the cutting edge of cancer research. The UC Merced professor and his team recently published a study that lays the groundwork for better diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.

"By comparing the genomes of more than 300 melanoma patients we identified mutational hot spots that give rise to cancer," said Filipp.

The American Melanoma Foundation says one person dies from the disease nearly every hour in the U.S., but these researchers are hoping to change that. They combed through a database filled with billions of DNA base pairs and found a specific gene mutation that drives this form of skin cancer. They say it was the largest study of its kind thanks to recent advancements in technology and computation.

Rohit Gupta is a Ph.D. student who helped with the study. He's passionate about his work because of losing loved ones to cancer.

"Being here in this lab and being part of this study is just an honor," said Gupta.

Professor Filipp earned an award for his research that's only given out once every three years, but he and his students say the ultimate reward will be seeing their work save lives.

"That's the end goal. It might not be tomorrow, but at some point this will definitely help somebody," said Eddie Gibb, a Ph.D. student.

The researchers say their study can also be applied to other forms of cancer, and they hope to one day use the same approach to study melanoma patients here in the Valley to learn more about the risk factors in our region.

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