Skin color studies on tadpoles lead to cancer advance

Jan 29, 2009

The humble tadpole could provide the key to developing effective anti-skin cancer drugs, thanks to a groundbreaking discovery by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The scientists have identified a compound which, when introduced into Xenopus Laevis tadpoles, blocks the movement of the pigment cells that give the tadpoles their distinctive markings and which develop into the familiar greenish-brown of the adult frog.

It is the uncontrolled movement and growth of pigment cells (melanophore) in both tadpoles and humans that causes a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer. By blocking the migration of these cells, the development and spread of cancerous tumours can potentially be prevented.

Published today in the Cell Press journal 'Chemistry & Biology', the findings are the culmination of several years' work by the UEA team. This unconventional study, which was initiated with funding from the UK Medical Research Council, identifies for the first time an effective new man-made MMP (metalloproteinase) inhibitor, known as 'NSC 84093'.

The work was led by the University of East Anglia, in partnership with the John Innes Centre (JIC) and Pfizer.

"This is an exciting advance with implications in the fight against cancer," said lead author Dr Grant Wheeler of UEA's School of Biological Sciences.

"The next step is to test the compound in other species and, in the longer term, embark on the development of new drugs to fight skin cancer in humans."

The species Xenopus Laevis (South African clawed frog) is more closely related to humans than one might expect. It only diverged from man 360 million years ago and has the same organs, molecules and physiology. This means that the same mechanisms are involved in causing cancer in both Xenopus tadpoles and humans.

Until the 1960s, Xenopus Laevis frogs were used as the main human pregnancy test. A woman's urine sample was injected into a live frog. If the urine contained the hCG (human chrionic gonadotropin) hormone, the frog would lay eggs within 24 hours, indicating that the woman was pregnant.

Source: University of East Anglia

Explore further: Phase 3 study may be game-changer for acute myeloid leukemia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bioelectrical signals turn stem cells' progeny cancerous

Oct 19, 2010

Biologists at Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences have discovered that a change in membrane voltage in newly identified "instructor cells" can cause stem cells' descendants to trigger melanoma-like ...

Recommended for you

US OKs first-ever DNA alternative to Pap smear (Update 2)

9 hours ago

U.S. government health regulators have cleared a genetic test from Roche as a first-choice screening option for cervical cancer. It was a role previously reserved for the Pap smear, the decades-old mainstay of women's health.

New breast cancer imaging method promising

14 hours ago

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Palliation is rarely a topic in studies on advanced cancer

15 hours ago

End-of-life aspects, the corresponding terminology, and the relevance of palliation in advanced cancer are often not considered in publications on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). This is the result of an analysis by ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.