According to a study published in the journal Cancer Research, researchers have discovered a biomarker that could serve as a possible therapeutic target for melanoma. The marker is microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF)—which is is a protein that plays a crictcal role in the maintenance of the melanocyte lineage (cells that make melanin), as well as the differentiation of normal and malignant melanocytes and melanoma cell survival.
Melanoma in skin biopsy with H&E stain — this case may represent superficial spreading melanoma. Credit: Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
"We have now detected the first useful chemical inhibitor of MITF," said corresponding author Rhoda Alani, MD, the Herbert Mescon Chair of Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine.
Over the past decade genetic mutations in human melanomas have been extensively examined—regardless, the role of epigenetic alterations in the development and progression of melanomas is still not well understood.
Specifically, scientists discovered that the inhibition of the epigenetic p300 Histone Acetyltransferase (HAT) enzyme stops the growth of human melanoma cells and cells that express the MITF protein are sensitive to this inhibition. The inhibition can hold many broad implications for the treatment of pigmented lesions in the skin which could potentially be used for the topical treatment of hyperpigmentation.
The study opens the doors to the endless pursuit for additional epigenetic approaches to cancers.
"When human melanoma cell lines were evaluated for growth effects using the chemical inhibitor of p300 HAT, the cell lines that were most sensitive to drug treatment were those that expressed high levels of MITF suggesting that MITF expression levels can predict melanoma sensitivity to such therapies," explained Alani, who also is chief of dermatology at Boston Medical Center.