Researchers Identify a Potential Target that May Provide a New Way to Treat Melanoma
A new study examines a protein and shows the important role it plays in inhibiting the development and spread of melanoma tumor in mice and human skin models. This protein, SOX9, may also increase the effectiveness of a treatment used on many other types of cancer.
Duval: New research conducted at that National Cancer Institute shows exciting promise for the treatment of melanoma. Dr. Vincent Hearing, a researcher at the Laboratory of Cell Biology and senior author of the study, talks about the research that his laboratory is working on.
Dr. Hearing: We've been identifying various factors that regulate skin pigmentation. And one of them that we found recently was this transcription factor called SOX9 and that was found in all melanocytes, normal melanocytes in human skin.
Duval: These melanocytes are the normal pigment cells that produce pigment in your skin, hair, and eyes. It's this melanin production that we actually see as color—whether it's skin, hair, or eye color. Melanoma cells, a form of cancer that starts in these melanocytes, has been difficult to treat thus far.
Dr. Hearing: They're very resistant to treatment with normal therapies, including retinoic acid. The reason that they're resistant to retinoic acid is because they normally produce large amounts of this factor known as PRAME, which is responsible for their resistance to retinoic acid.
Duval: But Dr. Hearing's recent findings suggest that the transcription factor, SOX9, may play an important role in treating melanomas with existing technology.
Dr. Hearing: The novel findings we have was that if we are able to increase the SOX9 expression it actually decreases PRAME and thus increases the sensitivity of melanoma cells to treatment with retinoic acid, which before now has been impossible. And we actually showed that this works in skin models and in mice so we're hoping that that can be extrapolated, would actually work in a clinical situation on human melanoma patients.
Duval: Thus, an increase in SOX9 decreases PRAME in melanoma cells, which makes them more susceptible to current treatments. Dr. Hearing adds that he and his colleagues are very optimistic about potential using this pathway for the treatment of melanomas. For more information on this study, visit http://www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin. This is William Duval at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: William Duval
Sound Bite: Dr. Vincent Hearing