Scientists isolate gene in self-healing skin cancer

Monday, February 28, 2011

LONDON - Scientists have isolated a gene involved in a rare, self-healing skin cancer, which could open the way to newer treatments for other types of cancers.

The multiple self-healing squamous epithelioma (MSSE) skin cancer grows rapidly but then a few weeks later, heals on its own.

Faults in the gene TGFBR1 is believed to cause the cancer and then subsequently heal it, the journal Nature Genetics reports.

The gene helps make a protein through which cells receive messages from neighbours, instructing them to carry out jobs essential to growth and development, according to the Telegraph.

But malignant cells interpret the “instructions” transmitted by TGFBR1 in two different ways, depending on the maturity of the tumour.

TGFBR1 initially prevents the growth of early tumours of various types but when cancers spread, their cells undergo a ’signalling switch’.

In more advanced cancers, TGFBR1 promotes tumour growth and spread instead. The reverse happens with MSSE, which is caused by an inherited fault in the TGFBR1 gene.

Scientists, based at the University of Dundee, made the discovery after examining the DNA of more than 60 people with MSSE and 110 of their unaffected relatives.

David Goudie, Cancer Research UK scientist at the university, said: “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.”

Filed under: Cancer, Medicine, World

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