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Gene that drives melanoma

Tues April 7th, 2009

A single gene mutation is responsible for more than two thirds of cases of the deadly skin cancer melanoma, British researchers reported last night.

Scientists said they have now shown that the gene BRAF is a "driving force" behind the disease.

The discovery is not the first to link the BRAF gene to melanoma - but is the first to show that the gene mutation helps cause cancer.

The scientists still believe that the mutation in BRAF is probably caused by over-exposure to sunlight.

They say that the BRAF mutation is generally the first genetic change in a series of events that leads to the cancer, which is notoriously difficult to treat because of its ability to spread.

The findings were reported in the journal Cancer Cell.

Professor Richard Marais, from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK, said the finding should help develop improved treatments.

He said: "We know that excessive sun exposure is the main cause of skin cancer, but not much is known about the genetics behind it. Our study shows that the genetic damage of BRAF is the first step in skin cancer development."

Oncogenic BRAF induces melanocyte senescence and melanoma in mice. Dhomen et al. Monday 6 April 2009. Cancer Cell.

Tags: UK News | Dermatology | Cancer | Australia

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