Researchers find cellular sweet spot in skin-cancer battle

June 12, 2017
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/National Cancer Institute

A team of researchers has pinpointed a sugar modification in cells that spurs the spread of skin cancer. Its findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Cancer Cell, spotlight a target in the battle against melanoma.

The study reveals that FUT8, an enzyme that transfers the sugar fucose onto proteins, is a driver of metastasis and, when silenced, suppresses the onset of cancer and the dissemination of tumors in .

"This sugar may represent a target for future therapeutic intervention in melanoma," observes Lara Mahal, a professor in NYU's Department of Chemistry and one of the paper's co-authors.

The findings, the researchers say, also call for a new, broad-based approach in the hunt for cancer remedies.

"There is a clear need to identify new targets and develop innovative drugs that target molecules essential for ," notes co-author Eva Hernando, an associate professor of pathology at NYU School of Medicine. "Our results support the value of a systemic approach to identify specific sugars, and related cellular changes, that contribute to melanoma."

While scientists have long thought that the process in which carbohydrates attach to cells—known as glycosylation—plays an important role in melanoma progression, there are no comprehensive analyses of clinical samples to support this assertion.

To address this, the researchers examined more than 30 samples of cancer tissue in patients, focusing on a particular type of glycosylation—fucosylation, or the addition of sugars to a molecule—by FUT8 and other enzymes.

Using laboratory mice, the researchers were able to reveal the role of FUT8 in metastasis. In addition, they subsequently focused on the factors behind the spread of melanoma. Here they found that it could be explained by fucosylation by this enzyme.

Specifically, their results showed the addition of fucose to a particular molecule, L1CAM, by FUT8 spurred melanoma metastasis. In addition, when this was silenced, or removed, both the onset and spread of the were stymied.

Explore further: A dietary sugar that may prevent melanoma from metastasizing

Related Stories

A dietary sugar that may prevent melanoma from metastasizing

December 10, 2015
New research from scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) suggests that a rare sugar found in seaweed, mushrooms, seeds and other foods may be able to help treat skin cancer. The sugar, called ...

Epigenetic changes promoting cancer metastasis identified

December 21, 2016
Latest University of Otago research is shedding new light on why and how cancer cells spread from primary tumours to other parts of the body. This phenomenon – known as metastasis – causes about 90 per cent of all cancer ...

A new unexpected key player in melanoma development identified

May 3, 2017
Identification and functional validation of proteins involved in tumorigenesis are essential steps toward advancing cancer precision medicine. In the Journal of Clinical Investigation researchers from VIB, KU Leuven (Belgium) ...

Researchers identify key role of microRNAs in melanoma metastasis

July 11, 2011
Researchers at the NYU Cancer Institute, an NCI-designated cancer center at NYU Langone Medical Center, identified for the first time the key role specific microRNAs (miRNAs) play in melanoma metastasis to simultaneously ...

Scientists identify gene that regulates the growth of melanoma

February 29, 2016
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 ...

Melanoma research breakthrough gives hope for treatment

February 7, 2017
A QUT-driven project has identified the way in which melanoma cells spread, opening up new pathways to treatment via drugs to 'turn off' the invasive gene.

Recommended for you

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Scientists develop novel immunotherapy technology for prostate cancer

August 17, 2017
A study led by scientists at The Wistar Institute describes a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of cancer based on the use of synthetic DNA to directly encode protective antibodies against a cancer specific ...

Scientists develop blood test that spots tumor-derived DNA in people with early-stage cancers

August 16, 2017
In a bid to detect cancers early and in a noninvasive way, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood and have used it to ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

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.