FEB 11, 2017 09:25 AM PST

Callused Soles and Throat Cancer: An Unlikely Link

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Many adults are plagued with hardened skin – calluses – on the soles of their feet and on the palms of their hands. Often considered unsightly, these hardened skin formations serve to protect the skin beneath the epidermis. But in some people, excess calluses may reveal the presence of malicious cancer.

The study focused on patients who suffer from a hereditary form of throat cancer known as tylosis. In particular, scientists at the University of Queen Mary London discovered that tylosis patients typically have extreme calluses on their feet. Whereas calluses on other healthy people result in minor discomfort, the hardened skin in people with tylosis can get so thick as to cause pain and require shaving off with razors.

The gene identified in tylosis is iRHOM2, which regulates the production of keratin – one of the most abundant proteins key in the makeup of hair, skin, and nails.

To better understand whether this gene may link calluses to throat cancer, the research team looked at people who had increased iRHOM2 expression. Indeed, high iRHOM2 is associated with high keratin levels and increased risks for esophageal cancer.

The team also created a knock-out mouse model of iRHOM2. These mice showed lower levels of keratin, and paws with thinner skins than their control counterparts.

"These findings highlight a novel and fundamental role for iRHOM2 in regulating the epithelial response to mechanical stress," the authors wrote. This is the first research to link iRHOM2 and keratin interaction, as highlighted in tylosis and callused feet.

The study may also broaden the understanding of other skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and even melanoma. "As K16 is highly expressed in disease states such as epithelial cancers and inflammatory dermatoses, there may be a broader significance for the role of iRHOM2 in the pathophysiology of these disorders, which remains to be explored,” the authors concluded.

Of note, throat cancer is part of the classification of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). This type of cancer is the sixth common cancer worldwide, including cancers of the tongue, tonsils, soft palate and pharynx. Each year there are nearly 650,000 new cases and 350,000 deaths.

Additional sources: MNTUniversity of Queen Mary London

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 26, 2018
Cancer
JUN 26, 2018
Five "-omics" Fields Introduced
An introduction to genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, epigenomics, and metabolomics....
SEP 02, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 02, 2018
Cancer Cell Lines can Evolve in the Lab
New research shows that scientists have to take steps to verify the identity of the cell lines they grow....
SEP 04, 2018
Cancer
SEP 04, 2018
Metal beads that could help reduce chemotherapy side effects in brain tumor
Brain tumors are one of the most challenging types of cancers to treat. Only 1 in 7 patients will survive the disease, and those survivors will usually suffer from lots of side effects becaus...
SEP 26, 2018
Cancer
SEP 26, 2018
Rare Cancer the Focus of Mesothelioma Awareness Day
More than 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer each year. The cancer is rare but very serious - most patients diagnosed with the disease live just a short 12 to 21 months....
OCT 03, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 03, 2018
Single Cell Modified in CAR T Therapy Causes Deadly Relapse
One cell meant a very different outcome for a patient that was the recipient of a cutting-edge cancer therapy....
OCT 14, 2018
Immunology
OCT 14, 2018
The Stem of Cancer
Scientists reveal a pathway involved in cancer cell ability to act as stem cells...
Loading Comments...