New Queen's University research has shown that the growth of melanoma, one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer, can be slowed when a little known gene called MicroRNA 193b is added.
Victor Tron, head of pathology and molecular medicine, focused on miR-193b when he discovered that it was deficient in melanoma tumors and because there were very few studies done about the gene. The miRNA-193b gene is found in people's DNA and was unknown until 10 years ago.
"Our experiment was a bit of a fishing expedition in the beginning. We thought 193b might be important but the fact we got such a tremendous reaction - the melanoma really slowed down when we added 193b - was really startling," says Dr. Tron, who worked with eight other Queen's researchers. "It's a totally new discovery."
In experiments, increased levels of miR-193b increased in melanoma cells led to lower levels of a well-known protein called cyclin D1, and decreased melanoma cell growth.
Lab experiments with tissue samples proved that miR-193b plays a role in the melanoma process. Further studies will be needed to find out what causes miR-193b levels to go up and down.
"This is the first step in a long road towards finding a melanoma cure," says Professor Tron.
Melanoma is one of the least common forms of skin cancer, yet causes 75 per cent of skin cancer deaths.
The study was recently published in the American Journal of Pathology. Pathology researchers Harriet Feilotter, Genevieve Pare, Xiao Zhang, Joshua Pemberton, Cherif Grady, Dulcie Lai and Xiaolong Yang and graduate student Jiamin Chen were also on the research team.
Queen's University is located in Kingston, Ontario Canada.