EZH2 Protein May Contribute to Melanoma Metastasis

EZH2 Protein May Contribute to Melanoma Metastasis

January 29, 2015

Because of the high mutation rate in melanoma cells, cancer drugs have been developed to help target these signaling pathways that stimulate such rapid growth. While many of these drugs have proven to be successful, resistance to these same drugs can also occur.

When it comes to melanoma, patients oftentimes don't go to the doctors until they notice significant changes and/or are symptomatic. Due to the aggressive nature of this disease, metastasis can develop quickly which makes treating advanced melanoma much more challenging.

Because of the high mutation rate in melanoma cells, cancer drugs have been developed to help target these signaling pathways that stimulate such rapid growth. While many of these drugs have proven to be successful, resistance to these same drugs can also occur.

When resistance develops, the cancer spreads by finding new ways to grow. According to Professor Lukas Sommer and his team of researchers at the University of Zurich's Institute of Anatomy, cancer cells-under certain conditions-are able to "read" different genes and use them to their advantage. The readability is controlled by epigenetic factors by causing certain genes and chromosomal segments to be packed in different densities-making them accessible for reading.

This study was published in the January 22, 2015 issue of Nature Communications.  

Researchers took a look at the role epigenetic factors have in melanoma cells, and in the process, discovered EZH2, an epigenetic control protein frequently found in melanoma cells.

Sommer's and his team showed that EZH2 controls genes that govern tumor growth as well as genes that are important for the formation of metastasis. Taking the research one step further, they used a pharmacological inhibitor to suppress the activity of EZH2 and to their surprise, were able to prevent growth and malignant spread of the cancer in both the animal model and human melanoma cells.

"To our astonishment, we were able to use the approach to influence the progression of the disease, even if tumors had already developed," said Sommer.

These results demonstrate that epigenetic factors like EZH2 may be a target area of interest for future cancer treatments-especially combined with other FDA-approved therapies.

References:

EurekAlert! (2015). Key factor discovered in the formation of metastases in melanoma.