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Tracking Melanoma Metastasis Leads to Key Gene Discovery

Posted February 22, 2016

A Wilmot Cancer Institute investigator discovered a gene that’s required for the initiation of melanoma and the growth of disseminated melanoma cancer cells in the lungs.


The findings suggest that the gene’s signaling pathway may be proof that melanoma stem cells exist, a question that’s being debated by scientists.

Lei Xu, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is lead author of the study, which was recently published in PLOS ONE and funded by a Wilmot Cancer Institute pilot grant. The Xu lab investigates the multiple, complex steps that occur as cancer cells spread from the original tumor to other parts of the body.

Sometimes metastatic cells can remain dormant for months or years before they’re detected. Scientists have been debating whether metastatic melanoma cells possess stem cell properties, as illustrated by their ability to survive, expand, and initiate new tumors in distant places.

The new evidence uncovered by Xu points to a gene known as FZD7 (Frizzled-7) as a requirement for new tumors to grow in melanoma cells lines. Knocking out FZD7 in mice caused melanoma that had spread to the lung to stop growing.

The research suggests that FZD7 might be a target for melanoma treatment and for preventing metastatic onset of melanoma. Learn more by reading the full article.

Source: University of Rochester

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