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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Gene Tied to Growth of Skin Cancer

Blocking the Stat3 Gene May Treat and Prevent Skin Cancer
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WebMD Health News

Sept. 1, 2004 -- Researchers have found a gene that's already linked to several other cancers may also play an important role in triggering the start and spread of the most common type of cancer among men and women: skin cancer.

A new study found mice that lacked the gene, known as Stat3, were completely protected against developing skin cancer, and inhibiting the gene blocked the growth of skin cancer tumors already formed.

Researchers say cancers usually develop in three phases -- initiation, promotion, and progression -- and are the result of several genetic mutations. The findings of this study suggest that Stat3, which controls the activity of several genes within human cells, may be required for the initiation and promotion phase of skin cancer.

Gene Critical to Skin Cancer Development

Previous studies have shown that mutations in the Stat3 gene is associated with a number of cancers, including those of the prostate, breast, lung, head and neck, brain, and pancreas.

In this study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers looked at whether deactivating the Stat3 gene in mice affected the development of skin cancer.

They found that normal mice developed skin cancer after chemical treatment to induce skin cancer, but mice that lacked the Stat3 gene did not.

In a second experiment, researchers showed that they could block the growth of existing skin cancer cells by inhibiting the Stat3 gene in the lab or in live animals. In addition, the growth of skin cancer tumors was stalled after injection with a Stat3 inhibitor.

Researchers say that together these findings provide the first evidence that Stat3 plays a role in skin cancer development and growth and may be an important target for developing skin cancer treatments as well as prevention strategies.

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