Stop signal discovered for skin cancer

November 15, 2011
Developing SCC on the skin. Cells are growing in an uncontrolled fashion after damaging the tumour suppressor.

(Medical Xpress) -- An extraordinary breakthrough in understanding what stops a common form of skin cancer from developing could make new cancer treatments and prevention available to the public in five years. 

In research published today in the leading international cancer journal, Cancer Cell, an international team of scientists led by Professor Stephen Jane and Dr Charbel Darido of Monash University's Department of Medicine at the Alfred Hospital, has discovered a gene that helps protect the body from squamous cell cancer (SCC) of the skin.

The Cancer Council estimates that two in three Australians will be diagnosed with before the age of 70 with SCC being one of the most common forms. Up until now, its genetic basis has not been well understood, with surgical treatments the only option.

Professor Jane said the team discovered that a gene with an important role in skin development in the foetus is missing in adult SCC tumour cells. Although the researchers initially focused on skin cancer, they found that the protective gene is also lost in SCC that arises in other tissues, including head and neck cancers, that are often associated with a very poor outcome for the patient.

"Virtually every SCC tumour we looked at had almost undetectable levels of this particular gene, so its absence is a very profound driver of these cancers," Professor Jane said.

In collaboration with Associate Professor Rick Pearson from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, the Monash researchers showed that loss of this particular gene knocks out the signal to stop skin cells from growing. Without this stop signal, the cells keep increasing in number and eventually forms a cancer.

Identifying this driver of cancer in skin and other organs provides a clear direction for developing strategies for both prevention and treatment in the relatively near future.

"Our research indicates that drugs already in clinical trials for other cancers may actually be effective in treating SCC - they just need to be applied to skin or head and neck cancers. 

"This means that a number of the usual hurdles in getting therapies to trial have already been cleared, so patients could be reaping the benefits of this research in under five years," Professor Jane said.

"It's a similar case with prevention. There are strategies by which we could increase the expression of this gene that will likely afford some protection from skin cancer, for example in the form of a supplement in sun-cream. The molecules that would increase this expression, are very well validated, so there would be few barriers to applying them in clinical trials."

Collaborating institutions on the paper include the Polish Academy of Sciences, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Harvard Medical School, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and the Alfred Hospital. 

Explore further: Researchers identify skin cancer genes

Related Stories

Researchers identify skin cancer genes

November 10, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The genes which contribute to the most frequently occurring life threatening form of skin cancer have been identified for the first time by a research collaboration between the University of Dundee and ...

HPV infection highly prevalent among organ transplant recipients

July 12, 2011
A new study published in the American Journal of Transplantation reveals an association between the human papillomavirus (betaPV) infection and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in organ transplant recipients.

New role for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in regulating skin cancer stem cells

October 19, 2011
Skin squamous cell carcinomas are amongst the most frequent cancers in humans. Recent studies suggest that skin squamous cell carcinoma, like many other human cancers, contain particular cancer cells, known as cancer stem ...

Recommended for you

No dye: Cancer patients' gray hair darkened on immune drugs

July 21, 2017
Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Aliceee
not rated yet Nov 17, 2011
Thats Great News! It will replace the well-recognized inefficient medication and will give hope for cancer patients
Congratulations for all and especially for Dr Darido who led the work and made the breakthrough.

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.