Cellular Sweet Spot Found in Skin Cancer Battle

Researchers have pinpointed a sugar modification in cells that spurs the spread of skin cancer. The study reveals that FUT8 – an enzyme that transfers the sugar fucose onto proteins – is a driver of melanoma growth. When silenced, it suppresses the onset of cancer and the dissemination of tumours in laboratory mice.

Scientists have long thought that the process in which carbohydrates attach to cells – known as glycosylation – plays an important role in the progression of melanoma; however, no comprehensive analyses of clinical samples exist to support this assertion.

To address this, researchers examined more than 30 samples of cancer tissue in patients, focusing on a particular type of glycosylation – fucosylation, or the addition of sugars to a molecule – by FUT8 and other enzymes.

Using laboratory mice, the researchers revealed the role of FUT8 in melanoma metastasis. In addition, they focused on the factors behind the spread of melanoma. Here they found that it could be explained by fucosylation by this enzyme.

Specifically, their results showed the addition of fucose to a particular molecule, L1CAM, by FUT8 spurred melanoma growth. Both the onset and spread of the cancer were stymied when this enzyme was silenced or removed.

The findings may represent a target for future therapeutic intervention in melanoma – characterising a new, broad-based approach in the hunt for cancer remedies.

Co-author Eva Hernando, an associate professor of pathology at NYU School of Medicine, notes, “There is a clear need to identify new targets and develop innovative drugs that target molecules essential for metastatic melanoma. Our results support the value of a systemic approach to identify specific sugars, and related cellular changes, that contribute to melanoma.”


Source: New York University

New York University. (12 June, 2017) Cellular sweet spot found in skin-cancer battle. Science Daily.

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