Washington: In what may pave the way for
predicting and preventing melanoma, an Indian-origin scientist
-led research team claims to have identified "co-conspirator"
cells in the genesis of this dangerous form of skin cancer.
Arup Indra and colleagues at Oregon State University
have found that changes in the body`s pigment-producing cells,
where melanoma takes hold, are only part of the story -- other
skin cells in what`s called the "microenvironment" of cancer
site also play a key role, `Biology & Nature` journal reports.
Indra said: "These adjacent cells, which are called
keratinocytes, are actually the driver for the changes and
malignant transformation in the pigment-producing cells, which
are called melanocytes.
"So there are two avenues -- the pigment-producing
cells where the cancer develops, and the adjacent skin cells
which `talk to` the pigment-producing cells in the form of
signals. They work in coordination they`re partners in crime."
For their study, the team conducted researches with
both animal models and human samples -- from individuals who
carry a mutation in a gene called Cdk4, which is an inherited
predisposition to melanoma that has turned up in families in
Norway, France, Australia and the UK.
The scientists found that a protein called RXR-alpha
in skin keratinocytes appears to protect pigment cells from
damage and prevent them from progressing to invasive melanoma.
This protein in skin cells sends chemical signals to
the adjacent pigment cells, Indra said.