Red heads at increased cancer risk
Washington: Researchers have discovered that the same MC1R genetic mutation that causes red hair also promotes a well-known cancer-causing pathway.
Now researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have helped to explain the molecular mechanisms that underlie redheads` well-known risk of developing melanoma, providing new insights for treating and preventing this dangerous type of skin cancer. o-senior author Wenyi Wei, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Pathology at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School said that in this current study, they demonstrated that the mutation MC1R-RHC promotes the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway when a red-haired individual is exposed to UV radiation.
PI3K/Akt is a well-known cancer-causing pathway, implicated in breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer.
Led by co-first authors, Lixin Wan, PhD, a member of the Wei laboratory at BIDMC and Juxiang Cao, PhD, a member of the Cui lab at BUSM, their experiments showed that in normal circumstances, MC1R was binding to PTEN, a well-known tumor suppressor gene. PTEN acts to safeguard against cancer; without PTEN, the end result is elevated signaling in the cancer-causing P13K/Akt pathway.
The team then went on to demonstrate that MC1R-RHC mutations found in red-haired individuals lacked this protective mechanism.
The team additionally found that in these same MC1R-RHC pigment cells, elevated PI3K/Akt activity was boosting cell proliferation and was synchronizing with another well-known cancer mutation in the BRAF gene (found in nearly 70 percent of human melanomas) to further accelerate cancer development.
The study has been published online in the journal Molecular Cell.