GETTING UNDER MELANOMA'S SKIN
Malignant skin cancer cells can resist committing suicide when attacked by chemotherapy. The explanation lies in the discovery, reported in this week’s Nature (Vol. 409, No. 6817, 11 Jan 2001, pp. 207–211; News &Views), that a key gene in the cell-death or ‘apoptosis’ pathway is switched off in this cancer.
Scott W. Lowe of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, and colleagues show that, unlike other aggressive, drug-resistant cancers, malignant melanoma cells have mutations not in the p53 gene, but in a gene at a step further on from p53 in the apoptosis pathway.
"But what makes this study doubly interesting," says Peter A. Jones of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in an accompanying News and Views article, "is that the inactivated gene — Apaf-1 — is merely switched off, instead of being completely lost or mutated." This suggests that the cell-death pathway could potentially be reactivated in melanomas, making them less dangerous.
Scott W. Lowe
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Peter A. Jones
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(C) Nature press release.
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