Melanoma, scientists at Queen's University have shown, can be slowed down in its deadly growth by a little known gene -MicroRNA.
Victor Tron, head of pathology and molecular medicine, focused on miR-193b when he discovered that it was deficient in melanoma tumors and because there were very few studies done about the gene.
The miRNA-193b gene is found in people's DNA and was unknown until 10 years ago.
"Our experiment was a bit of a fishing expedition in the beginning. We thought 193b might be important but the fact we got such a tremendous reaction - the melanoma really slowed down when we added 193b - was really startling," said Tron.
In experiments, increased levels of miR-193b increased in melanoma cells led to lower levels of a well-known protein called cyclin D1, and decreased melanoma cell growth.
Lab experiments with tissue samples proved that miR-193b plays a role in the melanoma process. Further studies will be needed to find out what causes miR-193b levels to go up and down.
"This is the first step in a long road towards finding a melanoma cure," said Tron.