Despite intensive research, however, there is still no treatment. Researchers from the University of Zurich have now discovered a gene that plays a central role in black skin cancer. Suppressing this gene in mice inhibits the development of melanoma and its proliferation – a discovery that could pave the way for new forms of therapy.
The stem-cell factor Sox10 (red) is active in the tumor tissue of melanoma patients and essential for the development and spread of cancer.
Until recently, it was assumed that a tumor was composed of many equivalent cells that all multiply malignantly and can thus contribute towards tumor growth. According to a more recent hypothesis, however, a tumor might also consist of malignant cancer stem cells and other less aggressive tumor cells. Normally, stem cells are responsible for the formation of organs.
Cancer stem cells can divide in a very similar way and develop into other tumor cells to form the tumor. Efficient tumor therapy thus primarily needs to fight cancer stem cells. Consequently, a team of stem-cell researchers from the University of Zurich headed by Professor Sommer decided to find out whether mechanisms that are important for normal stem cells also play a role in cancer stem cells.
Regulating gene discovered in tumor
Melanoma cells are rogue skin-pigment cells formed by so-called neural crest stem cells during embryonic development. Professor Sommer’s group teamed up with dermatologists and pathologists to investigate whether cells with characteristics of these specific stem cells are present in human tumor tissue.
“This was indeed the case, as we were able to prove based on numerous biopsies performed on melanoma patients,” says Sommer. In particular, one gene that effectively controls the stem-cell program was highly active in all the tumor tissue studied. This gene, which is known as “Sox10”, is essential for cell division and the survival of stem cells.
Gene suppression inhibits cancer
The next step for the Zurich researchers was to test how Sox10 works in human melanoma cells. They determined that the gene also controls a stem-cell program in cancer cells and is necessary for cell division. In order to corroborate these findings in a living organism, the researchers ultimately used a mouse which carried similar genetic mutations to those found in human melanoma and thus developed black skin cancer spontaneously. Astonishingly, the suppression of Sox10 in this animal model completely inhibited the formation and spread of cancer.
“Our research demonstrates that a tumor could probably be treated by attacking its stem cells,” concludes Sommer. The results also illustrate that such studies can primarily be successful through the close collaboration and conscious use of synergies between basic researchers and clinicians.
Olga Shakhova, Daniel Zingg, Simon M. Schaefer, Lisette Hari, Gianluca Civenni, Jacqueline Blunschi, Stéphanie Claudinot, Michal Okoniewski, Friedrich Beermann, Daniela Mihic-Probst, Holger Moch, Michael Wegner, Reinhard Dummer, Yann Barrandon, Paolo Cinelli, and Lukas Sommer. Sox10 promotes the formation and maintenance of giant congenital naevi and melanoma. Nature Cell Biology. 8 July, 2012. Doi: 10.1038/ncb2535
Contact:Professor Lukas Sommer
Beat Müller | Universität Zürich
New gene potentially involved in metastasis identified
26.03.2019 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
Decoding the genomes of duckweeds: low mutation rates contribute to low genetic diversity
26.03.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Cancers that display a specific combination of sugars, called T-antigen, are more likely to spread through the body and kill a patient. However, what regulates...
DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.
The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
26.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
26.03.2019 | Earth Sciences
26.03.2019 | Earth Sciences