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Blocking Protein May Help Protect Against Skin Cancers
Posted: March 12, 2009
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The scientists also observed that the MIF deficiency did not cause any significant side effects in the mice. Under normal circumstances, the amount of MIF in the blood remains constant. “Some MIF is not bad, but we think that if it goes above a certain threshold, it starts doing crazy things,” Satoskar said. “We’re not aware of the natural existence of a MIF deficiency in humans, but in a mouse, we don’t see any toxic effects.”
MIF is also an important target for skin cancer research because previous studies have identified five polymorphisms in the MIF gene in humans. Polymorphisms are mutations in genes that, in the case of MIF, might make some individuals produce higher or lower levels of the protein, which could influence their susceptibility to skin cancers.
Satoskar and colleagues plan to examine biopsies of patients who have been diagnosed with squamous cell or basal cell carcinoma to see if these patients have a polymorphism on the MIF gene that would suggest a genetic predisposition toward the cancer. “If we find a correlation, a MIF-gene polymorphism could become a biomarker to predict skin cancer. That would mean people who have a polymorphism that makes them high MIF producers would be more likely to develop skin cancer if they are exposed to the sun,” Satoskar said. “We don’t know yet whether there is a correlation, however.”
The researchers also plan to begin tests of the drug under development in their MIF-deficient mouse model. The drug is based on a small molecule that blocks the activity of MIF in the blood and has been effective in other animal models of inflammatory diseases at a very low dose. “Our goal is to move forward to see whether this molecule is a new target for prevention and/or treatment of this disease,” Satoskar said.
The study is scheduled for publication in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. This work was supported by an Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center seed grant.