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.
Explore further: Survival rates appear lower for scalp and neck melanoma than for other sites
The study was recently published in the American Journal of Pathology.