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Researchers have Identified the Gene that Spreads Skin Cancer

static melanoma, scientists have discovered large regions of chromosomal DNA that have been amplified or deleted. In such cases, it would be a daunting task to pinpoint the actual gene culprit among a large number of “bystander” gene abnormalities that may not be relevant to the cancer.

For example, scientists had previously shown that the entire short arm of Chromosome 6, referred to as 6p, is amplified in more than 35 percent of cells from melanoma tumors that had metastasized. But the 6p region is only rarely amplified in primary, non-spreading melanomas. There are hundreds of genes on 6p, making the task of narrowing down to a few candidate culprits nearly impossible. Chin had previously created transgenic mice in which melanoma could be induced by turning cancer genes on or off. When tumors from these mice were transplanted into normal mice lacking an immune system, the cancers grew and a few of them became metastatic. Genome scans of the metastatic tumors -- known as "escapers" -- revealed an amplified region on Chromosome 13 that was not present in the primary (non-metastatic) tumor cells. That region, presumably, reflected a genetic change that promoted metastasis.

Although it is located on Chromosome 13 in the mouse, the amplified region was similar to the amplified region on Chromosome 6 in human melanoma cells, but, fortunately, it contained only eight genes. Therefore it was possible to pinpoint the NEDD9 gene in the mouse tumors and verify that the same gene in humans, when overactive, drives metastasis of melanoma tumors.

"This is a demonstration of the principle, that the mouse has similar genomic changes that are important for cancer, and we can use the mouse model as a 'filter' to help us identify which gene is responsible for the cancer development and metastasis," said Chin, who is also an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.

(Source: Newswis)
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