IMAGE: Pigment cells (blue/green) with cilium (light green with red base). view more
Melanomas are one of the most aggressive types of tumors in humans. Despite remarkable success with new forms of treatment such as immunotherapies, there are still many melanoma patients who cannot be cured or who later suffer a recurrence of the disease following successful treatment. An in-depth understanding of the tumor’s biology is thus essential for developing novel therapeutic approaches. The main question is which changes in a benign cell cause it to progress into a malignant tumor.
Formation and spread of melanoma also regulated epigenetically
A team of researchers led by Lukas Sommer, professor at the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich (UZH), has now been able to show that in addition to genetic causes such as mutations in the DNA, epigenetic factors also play a role in the formation and spread of melanoma. While epigenetic factors don’t directly influence the gene sequence, they do regulate how efficiently certain genes are transcribed in the cells. The UZH researchers focused on the EZH2 protein, which – unlike in benign cells – is very common in melanoma cells and plays a central role in melanoma formation.
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