Gene that suppresses skin cancer growth identified

March 30th, 2009 - 12:05 pm ICT by ANI  

London, March 30 (ANI): Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. have announced the discovery of a gene that suppresses tumour growth in melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The finding was made as part of a systematic genetic analysis of a group of enzymes implicated in skin cancer, and many other types of cancer.

According to the analysis, one-quarter of human skin cancer tumours had mutations in genes that code for matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes.

The researchers believe that their findings may pave the way for more individualized cancer treatment strategies, where MMP and other key enzymes play a functional role in tumour growth and spread of the disease.

They even say that their study may help understand why drugs designed to treat cancer by blocking MMP enzymes have not been very successful as yet.

During the current study, the team led by researchers from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) have found that MMP-8 actually serves as a tumour suppressor gene in melanoma, which is why may not be wise to block all MMPs in skin cancer patients with mutation in this gene.

The researchers say that a better approach may be to look for drugs that restore or increase MMP-8 function, or for drugs that block only those MMPs that are truly oncogenes-genes that encode proteins involved in normal cell growth.

“This research is an illustrative proof of concept that shows the value of genomic strategies for understanding cancer and possible therapies,” Nature magazine quoted Dr. Eric Green, NHGRI Scientific Director, as saying.

“It is gratifying to see that genomic technologies are guiding scientific discovery, advancing cancer research, especially melanoma research,” Green added.

While experimenting on mice, the researcher observed that when they injected the animals with cells expressing normal MMP-8, they would not develop skin ulcers.

However, when the mice were injected with cells expressing mutated MMP-8, they went on to develop ulcerations and metastases in their lungs.

A research article on the gene discovery has been published in the journal Nature Genetics. (ANI)

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