Key Factor Discovered In The Formation Of Metastases In Melanoma


Key Factor Discovered In The Formation Of Metastases In Melanoma
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Patients who visit the doctor because of malignant skin cancer often go too late - the aggressive cancer has already formed numerous metastases in their bodies. This rapid, malignant metastatic formation of melanoma, was previously put down to the high mutation rate that is characteristic of melanoma, i.e. genetic changes that stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Various cancer drugs therefore target the signaling pathways activated in the process, some of which have recorded astonishingly positive results in the clinic and are able to prolong the lives of seriously sick patients.
 
Unfortunately, however, in most cases a kind of resistance develops. Eventually, the cancer cells no longer respond to the drug and the tumor spreads again. Evidently, the cancer cells have found new ways to grow. A team of researchers has now found a possible explanation for this dynamic behavior in cancer cells: The scientists believe that, depending on the prevalent conditions, cancer cells are able to "read" different genes and use them to their own end. The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.
 

A highly active epigenetic factor in cancer cells
The readability of genes is controlled by epigenetic factors, namely factors which do not influence the gene sequence directly, but rather cause certain genes and chromosomal segments to be packed in different densities - and thus make them accessible for reading. Consequently, the researchers studied whether epigenetic factors are especially active in melanoma cells - and stumbled across EZH2, an epigenetic control protein found very frequently in malignant melanoma cells compared to normal cells.
 
The researchers were able to demonstrate that, in melanoma cells, the epigenetic factor EZH2 controls genes that govern tumor growth as well as genes that are important for the formation of metastases. In their study, they exploited this central position of EZH2 to combat the cancer: They used a pharmacological inhibitor to suppress the activity of EZH2. As a result, the researchers were able to prevent the growth and malignant spread of the cancer in the animal model and human melanoma cells. Epigenetic factors like EZH2 therefore appear to be highly promising targets for future cancer treatments, especially combined with other drugs that are already available.
 
Based on material originally posted by University of Zurich.