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Protein Involved In Embryo Formation Found In Malignant Cells

ing zebrafish to "detect" tumor-derived chemical signals.

In addition, one of the hallmarks of aggressive cancer cells, including malignant melanoma, is their unspecified, "plastic" nature, which is similar to that of embryonic stem cells, expressing genes characteristic of multiple cell types, including endothelial, neural and stem cells.

The Hendrix lab has long hypothesized that the plastic nature of malignant melanoma cells serves as an advantage by enhancing the cells' ability to migrate, invade and metastasize virtually undetected by the immune system.

In this study, the researchers showed that aggressive tumor cells, particularly melanoma, are capable of responding to microenvironmental factors as well as influencing other cells via epigenetic (other than genetic) mechanisms, a quality known as bi-directional cellular communication. Bi-directional cellular communication is integral to both cancer progression and embryological development.

The significance of the research team's finding is profound in that it implies that through secretion of Nodal, aggressive melanoma cells maintain their plasticity and modulate the microenvironment, as exemplified by their ability to direct the formation of zebrafish tissues.

These results also highlight the propensity of tumor cells to communicate bi-directionally and survive within an embryonic microenvironment. Further, the findings illuminate the remarkable plasticity of melanoma cells and the utility of the developing zebrafish as a model for studying the epigenetic modulation of tumor cells.

Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The five-year survival rate for melanoma patients with widespread disease is between 7 percent and 19 percent.

Source: Eurekalert
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