Research collaboration identifies biomarker panel linked to melanoma patient survival

June 6, 2017, University College Dublin
Melanoma. Credit: UCD Conway

An international research collaboration led by University College Dublin (UCD), involving the UCD spin-out company OncoMark and Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona, has identified a set of biomarkers strongly linked with survival in patients with melanoma that may help clinicians with treatment decisions.

The study has also identified several biomarkers of tumour development and progression that have never been linked to cutaneous until now.

Cutaneous melanoma is the most life-threatening form of skin cancer with rising incidence and mortality rates particularly in men over 55 years and women of all ages.

Currently, there are very limited tools available to help clinicians pinpoint the stage of the disease in a patient at the time of diagnosis. Clinicians make their diagnosis based on classical identifiers such as the thickness of the tumour.

Up until now, it has been problematic to identify early events during the development and progression of melanoma as studies used samples from tumour metastases rather than the primary tumour.

This study involved a comprehensive mapping of the extent of DNA methylation occurring at three distinct stages of development of this skin cancer; from benign nevi to malignant melanoma to metastatic melanoma.

DNA methylation is a natural chemical change that results in genes being switched on or off. This epigenetic change does not alter the genetic code itself but affects how genes are read by cells and what proteins are made as a result.

The team have shown the importance of epigenomic regulation in triggering tumour spread by the way in which it can switch off certain cancer-related pathways and interrupt normal cell processes such as cell adhesion. When this occurs, can break away from each other and metastasise or travel away from the original location to other parts of the body.

Describing the significance of this study, Professor William Gallagher, UCD Professor of Cancer Biology at the UCD Conway Institute and Chief Scientific Officer at OncoMark said,

"This research highlights that this type of comprehensive, genome-wide DNA methylation mapping can provide insight to the transformation and aggressiveness of tumour cells. It has allowed us to identify a DNA methylation signature associated with patient survival and we are excited by the potential clinical utility of these biomarkers. They may provide clinicians with a powerful tool to stratify who have benign versus more aggressive types and allow them to tailor treatment accordingly."

According to Dr Manel Esteller (Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute, Barcelona), co-lead author on the study:

"This study represents the most comprehensive epigenomic profiling assessment of well-described human melanomas. It verifies that DNA methylation biomarkers represent a valuable tool to identify potential protein biomarkers. This not only has implications for the clinical management of melanoma but several cancer types."

Dr Jasper Wooters, first author of the study, says,

"In this epigenomic melanoma study, we establish novel biomarkers to identify patients with good prognosis that do not necessarily need to undergo aggressive and expensive therapies. Importantly, some of these biomarkers can potentially be assessed non-invasively, using cell-free DNA in the serum of patients."

Explore further: A method for the diagnosis and prognosis of melanoma, the most aggressive skin cancer, is patented

More information: Jasper Wouters et al. Comprehensive DNA methylation study identifies novel progression-related and prognostic markers for cutaneous melanoma, BMC Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1186/s12916-017-0851-3

Related Stories

A method for the diagnosis and prognosis of melanoma, the most aggressive skin cancer, is patented

February 19, 2014
UPV/EHU researchers have developed a method for the diagnosis and prognosis of cutaneous melanoma, the type of skin cancer with the highest mortality rate.This method will help not only in the more effective early detection ...

Epigenomic changes play an important role during the progression of melanoma

April 9, 2015
KU Leuven researchers have zeroed in on what makes cancer cells in melanoma so aggressive. They also succeeded in taming the effect in cell cultures. Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is notoriously quick to metastasize and ...

A protein that defines the melanoma blueprint

November 18, 2016
The main goals of the Melanoma Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) are to identify biomarkers of tumour progression and to validate novel therapeutic targets in melanoma. In particular, their research ...

Study reveals how melanoma spreads

February 8, 2017
Cancerous tumors are voracious. Once they have consumed all the oxygen and nutrients in the original tumor site, the cancer cells travel to other parts of the body (metastasize) to find more nourishment.

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

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.


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.