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Genetic mutation may be key to onset of deadly skin cancer

A Johns Hopkins scientist and a team of collaborators have discovered how precancerous moles may progress to melanomas, the most deadly type of skin cancer. The preliminary report, in the August 15 issue of Cancer Research, describes a link between two genes that trigger skin cancers and could serve as early diagnostic markers for the disease.

The researchers say that, in melanomas, a cell growth regulatory gene known as Id1 deactivates an important tumor suppressor gene (p16/Ink4a), allowing cancer cells to grow uncontrollably.* High levels of Id1 proteins are found only in the first stages of melanoma, allowing it to be detected and treated while still in a curable stage. trigger skin cancers and could serve as early diagnostic markers for the disease.

Telling the difference between precancerous moles and early-stage melanoma can be very difficult, and the treatments for these two lesions differ significantly, explains Rhoda Alani, M.D., assistant professor of oncology, dermatology, molecular biology and genetics and director of the study. If its melanoma, you want to catch it very early and treat it aggressively by removing as much tissue as possible to cure the disease. Since Id1 is expressed in early-stage melanoma, it has the potential to serve as a definitive diagnostic marker although more studies are needed to confirm this use.trigger skin cancers and could serve as early diagnostic markers for the disease.

The scientists studied Id1 protein expression in 21 tissue samples from a variety of skin cancers, including normal non-cancerous moles (benign nevus), precancerous moles (dysplastic nevus), early-stage melanoma (in-situ melanoma), invasive melanoma and metastatic melanoma. We found high levels of Id1 activity in the earliest phases of melanoma, when its limited to the top layer of the skin (or epidermis). Precancerous moles, invasive and metastatic melanomas do not express high levels of Id1, reports Alani. Larger stu
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
14-Aug-2001


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