Researchers at Albany Medical College claim to have identified a potential therapeutic target for melanoma.
The team led by Dr Andrew Aplin, an associate professor of Cancer Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, has discovered a protein called Mcl-1 that plays a critical role in melanoma cell resistance to a form of apoptosis called anoikis.
Mcl-1 is part of the Bcl-2 protein family, and is regulated by B-RAF proteins, which are mutated in approximately 60 percent of all human melanomas.
Aplin said that presence of Mcl-1 causes cell resistance to anoikis. This resistance to anoikis enables the melanoma cells to metastasize and survive at sites distant from the primary tumour.
During the study, the research team looked at three candidate Bcl-2 proteins: Mcl-1, Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL.
"When we depleted Mcl-1 from the tumour cells, they were susceptible to cell death," said Aplin.
"Mcl-1 showed dramatic results compared to Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL, which was a surprise.
"Our findings show that targeting Mcl-1, which is upregulated in a majority of melanoma cells, could be a viable treatment strategy," he added.
The study is published in Molecular Cancer Research.