From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published December 23, 2010 09:55 AM

Major Breakthrough in the Fight Against Melanoma

Melanoma is one of the less common types of skin cancer, but responsible for 75 percent of skin cancer related deaths. The World Health Organization reported that 48,000 people die from malignant melanoma every year. It is more frequently found in women and particularly common among Caucasians who live in sunny climates. A new study from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine may have found a breakthrough in the fight against this deadly disease. Researchers have discovered that the gene responsible for cancer growth can be suppressed by a specific protein.

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The malignant gene is known as the oncogene. If it can be regulated, then melanoma can be treated or prevented. The researchers found that the presence of the protein, macroH2A, was directly related to the growth of melanoma. As the disease became more aggressive, macroH2A levels decreased. They experimented by removing the protein from the system, and found that the melanoma progressed more rapidly in both growth and metastasis. Then they added the protein back, which halted the aggressive melanoma growth.

"We wanted to determine whether macroH2A is a passenger in this process or if it's crucial in the progression of melanoma," said Emily Bernstein, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncological Sciences and Dermatology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and lead author of the study.

The oncogene which macroH2A regulates is known as CDK8. The oncogene, CDK8 can be eliminated by an increase in the protein macroH2A. This would suppress melanoma progression. More testing needs to be conducted before this treatment becomes available to patients.

Hopefully, this line of research will prove to be successful. It would be a major breakthrough if melanoma can be treated with a simple injection of proteins. Today’s typical treatments are not nearly as preferable to patients. They consist of surgically removing the tumor, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Link to published article in the journal Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7327/full/nature09590.html

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