Scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have identified a protein that serves as a master regulator of skin cancer - a finding that could lead to new ways to prevent skin cancer before it starts.
The protein, called STAT3, had been known to be involved in cancer, but John DiGiovanni Ph.D., and his colleagues showed that activated STAT3 is necessary for skin cancer to begin and that without it, skin cancer cant develop. The study, which appears in the September 1, 2004, issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is the first to show STAT3s critical role in the development of skin cancer. "This study shows STAT3 plays a role in the very earliest steps of the carcinogenic process," says DiGiovanni, the studys principal investigator and director of M. D. Andersons Department of Carcinogenesis which is located in Smithville, about 250 miles from the Houston cancer center. "This is a bona fide target for prevention." It is possible that one day a STAT3 inhibitor could be applied as a topical cream to treat sunburns or precancerous lesions to prevent progression to cancer, he says.
Signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3) belong to a class of proteins called transcription factors that can lead to cancer by allowing a healthy cell to respond inappropriately to external signals to divide. Transcription factors are potent proteins because they set off a cascade of events by activating numerous genes, which in turn lead to the production of growth-promoting proteins. Activated STATs have been observed in a wide variety of human cancers, including lymphomas and solid tumors. Because of its newly discovered role in the initiation and promotion stages of skin cancer, intensive effort should now be focused on researching the proteins activated by STAT3, DiGiovanni said.
Julie A. Penne | EurekAlert!
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