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Genetic Culprit In Deadly Skin Cancer

The National Institutes of Health researchers have identified a new group of genetic mutations involved in the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma.

This discovery is encouraging because some of the mutations, those found in nearly one-fifth of melanoma cases, reside in a gene already targeted by a drug approved for certain types of breast cancer.

Melanoma is becoming increasingly more common, the result is thought to be sun exposure that can damage DNA and lead to cancer-causing genetic changes within skin cells.

A team of scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) sequenced the protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) gene family in tumor and blood samples from people with metastatic melanoma.

The study was among the first to use large-scale DNA sequencing to systematically analyze all 86 members of the PTK gene family in melanoma samples.

Though additional work is needed to gain a more complete understanding of these genetic mutations and their roles in cancer biology, the scientists findings open the door to pursuing specific therapies that may prove useful for the treatment of melanoma with ERBB4 mutations.

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