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Study Shows Growth, Inhibition Factors of Skin Cancer

Posted: January 6, 2010

University of Pennsylvania researchers have discovered links between skin cancer growth and the presence or absence of certain cancer-related molecules.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have developed a new model of skin cancer based on the knowledge that a common cancer-related molecule called Src kinase is activated in human skin-cancer samples.

"Our previous work demonstrated that Src kinases are activated in human squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) of the skin. We modeled these observations by increasing the expression of the gene Fyn, a member of Src family of proteins, in mouse skin," explains senior author John T. Seykora MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology. In addition, prior work by the Seykora lab on a related protein called Srcasm, discovered by him in 2002, suggested that Srcasm may function as an anti-oncogene, a molecule that keeps others in check in order to control cell growth.

In this proof-of-principle study, published in the journal Cancer Research, the authors found that genetically engineered mice expressing a K14-Fyn transgene develop precancerous lesions and invasive squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) spontaneously in five to eight weeks. Skin SCCs are the second most common form of cancer, with greater than 250,000 cases annually in the United States, leading to approximately 2,500 deaths.

This study demonstrates that Fyn is a potent oncogene in skin. When Srcasm levels are raised in the mouse skin cancer model, tumor formation is dramatically inhibited showing that Srcasm functions as an anti-oncogene.