Researchers have found that a protein, P-Rex1 (a Rac-specific Rho GTPase guanine nucleotide exchange factor), can have an important role in the spread of malignant melanoma i.e. most toxic form of skin cancer.
This research has been done by a team of international researchers led by researchers from the Cancer Research UK-funded Beatson Institute of Cancer Research in Glasgow and has been published online in the November 22 issue of the journal Nature Communications.
Researchers were studying the cells called as melanoblasts, which are famous for their mobility and are involved in the early development of skin. They believed that the spread of melanoma cells – major cause of death – could be analogous to the movement of melanoblasts around the body tissues.
In the study, researchers found that the mice, which lacked the gene making the P-Rex1 protein, had skin cancers that was not spreading. Based on this study, researchers worked on human melanoma cells and tumor tissues and found increased levels of P-Rex1 protein and suggested that the protein is involved in the movement of cells and possible spread of cancer.
This research is important in two ways. One to better understand the working of cells and the other to develop new treatments for cancer.
Researcher Channing Der, a member of the team based at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center the US, said,
We know that mutations in a gene called BRAF are important for the development of melanoma and several years ago we published a collaborative paper listing 82 proteins that seem to be affected by this genetic pathway. From that list, we focused on P-Rex1.
Colin R. Lindsay, Samuel Lawn, Andrew D. Campbell, William J. Faller, Florian Rambow, Richard L. Mort, Paul Timpson, Ang Li, Patrizia Cammareri, Rachel A. Ridgway, Jennifer P. Morton, Brendan Doyle, Shauna Hegarty, Mairin Rafferty, Ian G. Murphy, Enda W. McDermott, Kieran Sheahan, Katherine Pedone, Alexander J. Finn, Pamela A. Groben, Nancy E. Thomas, Honglin Hao, Craig Carson, Jim C. Norman, Laura M. Machesky, William M. Gallagher, Ian J. Jackson, Leon Van Kempen, Friedrich Beermann, Channing Der, Lionel Larue, Heidi C. Welch, Brad W. Ozanne & Owen J. Sansom, (2011). P-Rex1 is required for efficient melanoblast migration and melanoma metastasis. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms1560