Gene suspected in certain skin cancers

U. TEXAS-AUSTIN (US) — The discovery of a gene that plays a role in susceptibility to nonmelanoma skin cancer could lead to novel strategies for its prevention.

“Studies related to this gene indicate that it plays a role in the tumor promotion stage of skin carcinogenesis, which is the process whereby premalignant cells undergo expansion and acquire additional characteristics associated with malignancy,” says John DiGiovanni, professor in the college of pharmacy at the University of Texas-Austin.

The mechanism by which the newly discovered gene, called Gsta4, modifies skin tumor development, however, has not been determined.

Preliminary results suggest the gene may play a role in other cancers, including several pediatric cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma as well as melanoma.

The research was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most familiar type of malignancy in humans with about one million new patients diagnosed each year. Basal cell carninoma (BCC) and squanous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common.

Though they are rarely life threatening, nonmelanoma skin cancers can be disfiguring when not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. The incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer (including both BCC and SCC) about equals that of all other human cancers combined.

“The morbidity and economic burden associated with these malignancies continues to escalate,” DiGiovanni says.

“It is hoped that the identification of this susceptibility gene will lead to new strategies for prevention of skin cancers and possibly other cancers in humans.”

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