Genetic fault that causes rare self-healing skin cancer identified

Monday, February 28, 2011

LONDON - Researchers have identified a key genetic fault that causes a rare skin cancer to spread and then spontaneously heal itself.

The identification of this rare cancer, known as multiple self-healing squamous epithelioma (MSSE) or Ferguson-Smith disease, could pave the way for new drugs to treat other types of the disease, scientists have claimed.

According to the study, the disease is caused by faults in a gene called TGFBR1, reports the Telegraph.

Researchers from the University of Dundee made the discovery after examining the DNA of more than 60 people with MSSE and 110 of their unaffected relatives.

They found that the TGFBR1 gene makes a protein through which cells receive messages from their neighbours, instructing them to carry out jobs essential to growth and development.

TGFBR1 acts as a ‘brake’ preventing the growth of early tumours of various types but when cancers become more advanced and aggressive, the gene can switch and promote the growth and spread of the tumour instead.

However, the reverse happens with MSSE, which is caused by an inherited fault in the TGFBR1 gene.

Patients with faulty TGFBR1 develop lots of small tumours. But at some point there is a ’switch’ in behaviour and the tumours lacking TGFBR1 heal themselves. Scientists do not yet understand how this happens.

“We hope that by shedding light on how one rare cancer manages to heal itself we’ll understand more about what goes wrong in other types of tumours,” said David Goudie, Cancer Research UK scientist at the university.

The study is published in the journal Nature Genetics. (ANI)

Filed under: Cancer

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