Scientists identify gene that regulates the growth of melanoma

February 29, 2016 by Ziba Kashef
Microscopic view of malignant melanoma. Credit: Marcus Bosenberg

Yale Cancer Center researchers have identified a gene in melanoma that can dramatically affect the growth of the disease. The findings, published in the journal Cell Reports, provide new insight into how melanoma grows and identifies a new target for treatment of melanoma and other cancers.

Enzymes that chemically modify DNA, known as DNA methyltranferases, play critical roles in regulating gene expression during development, but their role in formation is less clear. The new Yale study has uncovered a novel role for a specific DNA methyltransfearase enzyme—DNMT3B—in regulating melanoma growth.

Abnormally high expression of DNA methyltransferases is common in cancers, including melanoma. High expression of DNA methyltransferases can inappropriately switch genes off or on, which can contribute to tumor formation and growth. However, little is known about the specific growth-signaling pathways affected by DNA methyltransferase enzymes like DNMT3B. Yale researchers identified a specific cell-signaling pathway that is dependent on DNMT3B. They found that reducing DNMT3B delayed melanoma formation in mice by affecting mTORC2, a protein complex that is important for controlling cell growth, size, and survival.

 "We have identified a new target for drug development as well as a new way of targeting an existing pathway. These findings identify DNMT3B as an attractive target for cancer therapy," said Dr. Marcus W. Bosenberg, associate professor of dermatology and pathology at Yale School of Medicine, and senior author on the study.

Malignant melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, accounting for 80% of all skin cancer deaths. The research, published early online by Cell Reports, could lead to development of new strategies to slow growth by targeting DNMT3B, say the researchers.

Explore further: A tiny RNA with a big role in melanoma

More information: Goran Micevic et al. DNMT3b Modulates Melanoma Growth by Controlling Levels of mTORC2 Component RICTOR, Cell Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.02.010

Related Stories

A tiny RNA with a big role in melanoma

February 18, 2014

A Yale-led study has identified a key mechanism in the regulation of gene expression that promotes the proliferation of melanoma cells. The finding opens a possible avenue for development of treatments that target this mechanism. ...

Study identifies 'major player' in skin cancer genes

July 27, 2015

A multidisciplinary team at Yale, led by Yale Cancer Center members, has defined a subgroup of genetic mutations that are present in a significant number of melanoma skin cancer cases. Their findings shed light on an important ...

New genetic mutation identified in melanoma cancer cells

September 2, 2015

There is strong evidence that the protein complex APC/C may function as a tumor suppressor in multiple cancers including lymphoma, colorectal and breast cancer, and now melanoma. A new study has revealed that a genetic mutation ...

Discovery may lead to targeted melanoma therapies

June 17, 2015

Melanoma patients with high levels of a protein that controls the expression of pro-growth genes are less likely to survive, according to a study led by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published ...

Study finds new potential melanoma drug target

May 2, 2015

A new treatment for melanoma could be on the horizon, thanks to a finding by a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center-led team. In the study, which was published online today in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, the ...

Recommended for you

Study offers guidance for targeting residual ovarian tumors

May 23, 2017

Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer undergo surgery to remove as many of the tumors as possible. However, it is usually impossible to eliminate all of the cancer cells because they have spread throughout the abdomen. ...


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.