A new unexpected key player in melanoma development identified

Source: EurekAlert, May 2017

Identification and functional validation of proteins involved in tumorigenesis are essential steps toward advancing cancer precision medicine. In The Journal of Clinical Investigation researchers from VIB, KU Leuven (Belgium) together with colleagues from INSERM (France) now report the important role for FES in the initiation and progression of melanoma, a malignant type of skin cancer, that is notoriously quick to metastasize and that responds poorly to existing cancer treatments. Unexpectdly the expression of FES, which encodes a kind of protein better known for their ability to promote cancer development-, is lost in a large fraction of human melanoma. The researchers also identified a pharmacological way through which FES expression can be restored in human melanoma. This can be the first step in a novel therapeutic strategy against melanoma.

Human melanoma is a very aggressive skin cancer, but very little is known about the mechanisms that cause the disease to progress. The fact that melanoma often exhibits UV-induced genetic alterations makes it, among other features, a very complex disease to study. Prof. Jean-Christophe Marine (VIB-KU Leuven) and others developed mouse models recapitulating some of the key histopathological features of the human disease. Importantly, the mouse melanoma lesions are far less complex than their human counterparts. Taking advantage of these ‘simplified’ versions of melanoma, the researchers identified a dozen of new genes that are likely to play key roles in the initiation and/or progression of human melanoma. To further validate their findings, they studied the role of one of the genes, namely FES, and established its important contribution to the development of both mouse and human melanoma.
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