Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have identified a signaling pathway that is turned on when benign moles turn into early-stage malignant melanoma. The pathway could provide a new target for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the most lethal form of skin cancer. The research was reported in the December issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
A team of Emory scientists led by Jack L. Arbiser, MD, PhD, found that the signaling pathway called mitogen activated protein kinase (MAP kinase) is abnormally turned on in melanoma, particularly in its early stages. The investigators studied levels of activated MAP kinase in 131 tissue samples from precancerous moles (atypical nevi) and malignant melanomas. They found high levels of activated MAP kinase in early melanomas, but not in moles that are the precursors to melanoma.
In addition to MAP kinase activation, the Emory investigators studied two genes known to be up-regulated by the MAP kinase –– vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and tissue factor (TF). These genes also are known to be powerful stimulators of angiogenesis, which is the growth of microscopic blood vessels that nourishes cancerous tumors and leads to unregulated cell growth. The development of dormant tumors into actively proliferating tumors requires angiogenesis.
Holly Korschun | EurekAlert!
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