Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Genotyping & Gene Expression
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Missing Pieces of DNA Structure is a Red Flag for Deadly Skin Cancer

Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and is the leading cause of death from skin disease. Rates are steadily increasing, and although risk increases with age, melanoma is now frequently seen in young people.

But what if we could pinpoint when seemingly innocuous skin pigment cells mutate into melanoma? Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have achieved this. Teams led by Yujiang Geno Shi, PhD, from BWH's Department of Medicine, and George F. Murphy, MD, from BWH's Department of Pathology have discovered a new biomarker for the lethal disease. The findings offer novel opportunities for skin cancer diagnostics, treatment and prevention.

The study will be published on September 14, 2012 in Cell.

"Dr. Shi and colleagues have discovered an exciting new connection between the loss of a specific chemical mark in the genome and the development of melanoma," said Anthony Carter, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which mainly funded the research. "This work is a prime example of how basic research on mechanisms of epigenetic regulation can yield clinically significant insights that hold great promise for diagnosing and treating cancer."

The researchers found that certain biochemical elements in the DNA of normal pigment-producing skin cells and benign mole cells are absent in melanoma cells. Loss of these methyl groups-known as 5-hmC-in skin cells serves as a key indicator for malignant melanoma. Loss corresponded to more advanced stages of melanoma as well as clinical outcome.

Strikingly, researchers were able to reverse melanoma growth in pre-clinical studies. When the researchers introduced enzymes responsible for 5-hmC formation to melanoma cells lacking the biochemical element, they saw that the cells stopped growing.

"It is difficult to repair the mutations in the actual DNA sequence that are believed to cause cancer," said Christine Lian, MD, a physician scientist in the Department of Pathology at BWH and one of the lead authors. "So having discovered that we can reverse tumor cell growth by potentially repairing a biochemical defect that exists-not within the sequence-but just outside of it on the DNA structure, provides a promising new melanoma treatment approach for the medical community to explore."

Because cancer is traditionally regarded as a genetic disease involving permanent defects that directly affects the DNA sequence, this new finding of a potentially reversible abnormality that surrounds the DNA (thus termed epigenetic) is a hot topic in cancer research, according to the researchers.

In the United States, melanoma is the fifth most common type of new cancer diagnosis in men and the seventh most common type in women. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2012 there will be 76,250 new cases and 9,180 deaths in the United States due to melanoma.

The Shi laboratory pioneers studies in both basic chromatin biology and translational epigenetic research at the Endocrine Division, BWH Department of Medicine, and collaborates with Dr. Murphy's laboratory that focuses on melanoma biology in the Program for Dermatopathology, BWH Department of Pathology. This pre-clinical study, which shows a key role for epigenetics in melanoma development and progression, also enlisted the support of an international team of investigators. The findings will provide insight for future functional, pre-clinical studies of 5-hmC in cancer biology.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Measuring microRNAs in Blood to Speed Cancer Detection
A simple, ultrasensitive microRNA sensor holds promise for the design of new diagnostic strategies and, potentially, for the prognosis and treatment of pancreatic and other cancers.
Personalized Drug Screening for Multiple Myeloma Patients
A personalized method for testing the effectiveness of drugs that treat multiple myeloma may predict quickly and more accurately the best treatments for individual patients with the bone marrow cancer.
Metabolic Profiles Distinguish Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with Unprecedented Accuracy
Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer.
New Way to Force Stem Cells to Become Bone Cells
Potential therapies based on this discovery could help people heal bone injuries or set hardware, such as replacement knees and hips.
Promise of Newborn Stem Cells to Revolutionize Clinical Practice
In this article Shweta Sharma, PhD, discusses the potential of an Umbilical Cord Blood bank as an untapped source of samples for research and clinical trials.
New Anti-Malarial Drug Screening Model
University of South Florida researchers demonstrate novel chemogenomic profiling to identify drug targets for the most lethal strain of malaria.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos