MAKING SENSE OF MELANOMA
Malignant melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer, linked to sunlight. The biggest clinical threat to sufferers is often metastasis, the poorly understood process by which tumour cells spread through the body, evading detection and destruction.
This week (Nature, Vol. 406, Issue 6795, pp532-535, 536-540, August 3, 2000) two studies focus on the metastasis of melanoma cells. Richard O. Hynes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-workers identify several genes that are overexpressed in metastatic melanoma cells. In particular, one of these genes alone - RhoC - stimulates metastasis in a mouse model, raising the possibility that the RhoC protein could be used as a target for antimetastatic drugs.
In the second study, Jeffrey Trent of the National Human Genome Research Institute and colleagues compare different subgroups of human melanoma and find a distinctive pattern of gene expression in highly invasive melanoma cells, with implications for improving diagnostic procedures.
The two research groups used the new approach of 'gene expression profiling'. This technique is "revolutionizing our approach to studying cancer," says Anne Ridley of University College London in an accompanying News and Views article.
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