Researchers have discovered how a mole develops into melanoma by showing the interaction of two key proteins involved in 60-70 percent of tumors. The Penn State scientists also demonstrate that therapeutic targeting of these proteins is necessary for drugs to effectively treat this form of cancer.
“We have shown that when two proteins—(V600E)B-Raf and Akt3—communicate with one another in a mole, they cooperate leading to the development of melanoma,” said Gavin Robertson, lead author and associate professor of pharmacology, pathology and dermatology, and director of the Foreman Foundation Melanoma Therapeutics Program at the Penn State College of Medicine Cancer Institute. “We have also shown that effective therapies for melanoma need to target both these proteins, which essentially eliminates the tumors.”
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer because it metastasizes or moves around the body so quickly. In general, people with advanced-stage disease only have months to live. Currently, melanoma kills one person every hour in the U.S., and is predicted to affect one in 50 people by 2010. In recent years, researchers have zeroed in on two key genes—B-Raf and Akt3—that cause this deadly cancer, and which could be important targets in the treatment of melanoma.
B-Raf is the most mutated gene in melanoma. The mutant protein, (V600E)B-Raf, produced by this gene is important in helping mole cells survive and grow but it is unable to form melanomas on its own. Nearly 90 percent of all moles have the mutant protein but it is not fully clear why only some of them turn into melanomas.
Robertson and his colleagues have found that a second protein—produced by Akt3—regulates the activity of the mutated B-Raf, which aids the development of melanoma.
Release date: May 6, 2008
Source: Penn State