Researchers have discovered how a gene interacts with an important signaling protein to promote metastasis in human melanoma cells, a discovery that could one day lead to the development of the next generation of anti-metastatic drugs for melanoma and other cancers.
The gene mda-9/syntenin is known to regulate cell motility and alter certain biochemical and signaling pathways leading to acquisition of metastatic ability. However, the exact mechanisms involved with these processes have not been well understood until Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics published his findings in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
He reported that mda-9/syntenin is able to switch on the expression of c-Src, a key signaling protein involved with tumor cell growth and metastasis. This interaction triggers a signaling cascade resulting in increased cancer cell motility, invasion and metastasis.
The team will conduct further investigations to determine if small molecule drugs can be identified and developed to prevent metastasis by targeting this critical interaction between mda-9/syntenin and c-Src.
Metastatic disease is one of the primary challenges in cancer therapy. When cancer cells are localized in the body, specialists may be able to surgically remove the diseased area. However, when cancer metastasizes or spreads to sites remote from the primary tumor through the lymph system and blood vessels to new target sites, treatment becomes more difficult and, in many instances, ineffective.