Scientists uncover potential new skin cancer treatment target

16 August 2012

A potential new treatment target has been identified for melanoma skin cancer in a new experiment at Western University in Canada.

Researchers found that a new channel-forming protein called Pannexin (Panx1) is expressed in normal levels on the surface of healthy skin cells.

However, in melanoma, Panx1 is over-produced to a pathological level, meaning that measuring levels of this protein could be a good indicator of whether cancer was present or not.

Furthermore, the paper, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, also discovered that if the level of the protein is reduced, the cell becomes more normal.

Dale Laird, a professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology, explained the researchers believe this overproduction of Panx1 enables the melanoma to become extremely aggressive.

He said that the cells have extra Panx1 channels which means they are able to leave the primary tumour and invade other tissues.

Mr Laird added: "When you find a protein that is highly up-regulated in a disease cell such as a melanoma, the question becomes, is there therapeutic value in targeting a drug to that protein to reduce its production or block its function. Would that be an effective treatment?"

Posted by Edward Bartel

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