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Skin cancer study uncovers new tumor suppressor gene
Date:3/29/2009

ly serves as a tumor suppressor gene in melanoma. Consequently, in the estimated 6 percent of melanoma patients whose tumors harbor a mutated MMP-8 gene or related tumor suppressor(s), it may not be wise to block all MMPs. The study suggests 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.

"This research is an illustrative proof of concept that shows the value of genomic strategies for understanding cancer and possible therapies," said NHGRI Scientific Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. "It is gratifying to see that genomic technologies are guiding scientific discovery, advancing cancer research, especially melanoma research."

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. In the United States and many other nations, melanoma is becoming more common every year. A major cause is thought to be overexposure to the sun. The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight can damage DNA and lead to cancer-causing genetic changes within skin cells.

MMP enzymes help the body to break down and recycle proteins, playing a crucial role in the process of remodeling skin after sunburns, cuts or other injuries. The MMP gene family has been associated with tumor growth in a variety of cancers, including breast, colon and melanoma.

To explore the role of MMP genes in melanoma, the NHGRI researchers studied a bank of tumor and blood samples collected from 79 patients with aggressive melanoma by collaborator Steven Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Specifically, they compared the sequence of MMP genes in tumors and normal DNA from the same patients, looking for mutations in all 23 members of the MMP gene family.

The researchers identified 28 different mutations in eight MMP genes in the melanoma tumors studied. These mutations were found to be distributed in different frequencies and patterns among th
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Contact: Raymond MacDougall
macdougallr@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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