Scientists uncover cells at the origin of basal cell carcinoma

December 21, 2012
Scientists uncover cells at the origin of basal cell carcinoma
Credit: Shutterstock

For years researchers have been trying to identify the molecular changes that occur in tumour-initiating cells from the very first oncogenic mutation to the development of invasive tumors. The most frequently diagnosed skin cancer in humans is basal cell carcinoma, with over a million such cases reported each year. An EU-funded team of researchers led by Prof. Cédric Blanpain of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has identified the molecular events that occur during basal cell carcinoma initiation. This study was recently published in the journal Nature Cell Biology and it was partially supported by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant worth EUR 1.6 million awarded to Prof. Blanpain.

Using an inducible mouse model, the Belgian research team discovered that initiating cells are first reprogrammed before progressing to . 'We were extremely surprised to see that tumor initiating cells were progressively and profoundly reprogrammed into a molecular identity that resembles present during embryonic development,' said Dr Youssef, first author of the publication.

The scientists showed that the Wnt/beta-catenin signalling pathway is activated in basal cell carcinoma-initiating cells immediately after oncogene expression, and using genetic or pharmacologic inhibitors they demonstrated that this signalling pathway is necessary for both the reprogramming of tumour-initiating cells and for tumour initiation.

Professor Blanpain's team worked together with physicians from the Department of Dermatology, Pathology and Plastic Surgery at the Hospital Erasme in Brussels to demonstrate that human basal cell carcinoma initiating cells behave in the same way as the mouse model in that they are also reprogrammed into embryonic hair follicle progenitors and activate Wnt/beta-catenin signalling.

'I am particularly excited about this work, because this basic research turns out to be very relevant for human diseases, with the identification of potentially new avenues to treat or to prevent the occurrence of the most common cancer in humans,' said Professor Blanpain.

This research study should greatly benefit future work on cancer, and developmental and stem cell biology.

Explore further: New drug targets for squamous cell carcinoma

More information: Youssef, K.K., et al. 'Adult interfollicular tumour-initiating cells are reprogrammed into an embryonic hair follicle progenitor-like fate during basal cell carcinoma initiation', Nature Cell Biology, 2012. doi:10.1038/ncb2628

Related Stories

New drug targets for squamous cell carcinoma

May 19, 2011

Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have discovered a new drug target for squamous cell carcinoma – the second most common form of skin cancer. Scientists in the laboratory of Valeri Vasioukhin, Ph.D., ...

Regulation of telomerase in stem cells and cancer cells

June 27, 2012

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg have gained important insights for stem cell research which are also applicable to human tumours and could lead to the development of new ...

Recommended for you

Study examines evolution of cancer

February 8, 2016

A novel Yale study answers age-old questions about how cancers spread by applying tools from evolutionary biology. The new insights will help scientists better understand the genetic origins of tumor metastases, and lead ...

The growing menace of HPV‑related throat and mouth cancers

February 2, 2016

There's a new cancer epidemic on the rise. It's an aggressive throat and mouth cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV)—the same sexually transmitted virus that leads to cervical cancer—but it's affecting mostly ...

How gut inflammation sparks colon cancer

February 4, 2016

Chronic inflammation in the gut increases the risk of colon cancer by as much as 500 percent, and now Duke University researchers think they know why.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.