Kingston researchers provide new clues for melanoma

What's the true cost of that tan?

Melanoma is the leading cause of skin cancer-related deaths.  Each year around 60,000 new cases are diagnosed in the USA and worldwide 48,000 melanoma patients succumb to the disease.

There is a strong association between this deadly form of cancer and cumulative UV exposure (sunlight or tanning salons), particularly in fair-skinned, light-haired individuals.

Dr. Victor Tron and colleagues at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario have just published fascinating research which examines the contribution of micro RNAs (mi RNAs), small RNA molecules that regulate mRNA translation, to the development of melanoma.

The study compared 470 miRNAs taken from eight benign nevi and eight metastatic melanomas.  One miRNA – miR-193b – was suspected to have an important role in melanoma progression. Additional functional studies with miR-193b demonstrated that it could cause decreased expression of over 300 genes related to cell division, most notably Cyclin D1.

The authors concluded that a disruption in the function of miR-193b could underpin the development of melanoma.  In other words, loss or downregulation of miR-193b removes the “brakes” from pre-melanoma cells, allowing them to quickly become cancerous.

Additional work will be conducted to confirm whether miR-193b downregulation is a common early event in the development of this disease. And then? Potential treatment ideas, of course.