The loss of a gene known as INPP5A could predict the onset, and track the progression, of an aggressive type of skin cancer, a new study has revealed.
The research has been published by the Arizona Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
Targeting INPP5A could provide physicians with better ways to prevent and treat cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, a skin cancer that often spreads to other parts of the body, according to the study.
"Loss of INPP5A can be detected in most primary SCC tumors and even in actinic keratoses, or AK, the earliest stage in SCC development," said Aleksandar Sekulic, the study's lead author.
"Importantly, further reduction of INPP5A was detected as a subset of SCC tumors progressed from primary to metastatic stage," the author said.
"At present, our ability to assess who is at risk for SCC and our ability to treat the disease, especially in its aggressive forms, is clearly inadequate," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, one of the study's authors.
"Without question, additional investigations into INPP5A are warranted. Studies like this are critical if we are to ever get a handle on this all-too-common type of skin cancer," Jeffrey said.
The study used TGen's advanced genomic technologies to analyze 40 skin tissue samples that ranged from normal skin to highly invasive SCC.
Specifically, researchers used a technique called high-resolution array-based comparative genomic hybirdization to identify genetic deletions in a portion of DNA that normally harbors the INPP5A gene.
INPP5A, or inositol polyphosphate-5-phosphatase, interacts within the chemical pathways of cells to limit their proliferation, suggesting that this gene may play a key role as a tumor suppressor.
"Understanding the precise mechanisms of INPP5A loss, and exploring the connection between INPP5A and uncontrolled cellular proliferation, could provide us with new insights," said Dr. Michael Bittner, the study's senior author.
"Continuing studies could lead to new drug targets that could contribute to better treatments for patients with SCC, and some day perhaps even help prevent this type of skin cancer," he said.
The paper has been published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.