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Wistar scientists explain the persistence of melanoma through 'dynamic stemness'
Date:5/13/2010

Scientists at The Wistar Institute offer a new explanation for the persistent ability of melanoma cells to self-renew, one of the reasons why melanoma remains the deadliest form of skin cancer. The concept of the "dynamic stemness" of melanoma can explain why melanoma cells behave like both conventional tumor cells and cancer stem cells.

The researchers write in the May 14 issue of the journal Cell thatcontrary to other published reportsmelanoma does not appear to follow the hierarchic cancer stem cell model, where a single malignant "mother cell" both reproduces to produce new mother cells and differentiates to produce the bulk tumor population. Instead, all melanoma cells equally harbor cancer stem cell potential and are capable of inducing new tumors. Their findings reveal the unique biology of melanoma, and suggest that melanoma requires a new therapeutic approach.

"Targeting only the bulk tumor population, as most conventional anticancer therapies do, is pointless in melanoma, in that each cell can act as a seed for the tumors to rebound," said Meenhard Herlyn, D.V.M., D.Sc., professor and leader of Wistar's Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program. "The other implication is that we should stop hunting for a cancer stem cell, because it won't be there."

The traditional view of cancer holds that cancers arise following a random accumulation of malignant events, e.g. mutations, gradually imparting enough growth advantages that a cell can grow unchecked. Over the last decade, scientists have developed a cancer stem cell concept that explains how the slow growth and persistence of mother cells allow tumors to persist following treatment. Melanoma, for one, seems to follow a third path, dynamic stemness, where the stem cell-like behavior is not confined to mother cells alone, Herlyn says.

In the study, Herlyn and his colleagues describe a slow-growing subpopulation of melanoma tumor cells, defined by the protein JA
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Contact: Greg Lester
glester@wistar.org
215-898-3943
The Wistar Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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