A chink in malignant melanoma’s armor?

     
   

Pathologists have an eagle eye for subtle abnormalities in tissue that may signal disease, but even the best of them cannot discern aberrant protein patterns within individual cells.

Such patterns are the hallmark of many diseases, especially cancer, so David L. Rimm, M.D., Ph.D., and Robert L. Camp, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Pathology, devised AQUA (Automated Quantitative Analysis), a technique that combines sophisticated mathematics and microscopy to reveal and precisely measure the expression of up to five proteins in tissue at once—automatically (see photo).

In the July 7 issue of Nature, Rimm and collaborators reported that with the help of AQUA they discovered that MITF, a protein involved in cell survival, is “amplified”—abnormally copied many times over—in malignant melanoma cells.

In a commentary on the paper, Glenn Merlino, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, writes that malignant melanoma cells appear to depend utterly on MITF amplification for their survival. The protein “could be a weak link in an otherwise unbreakable chain,” he notes, leading to new, targeted therapies for a deadly cancer that is notoriously difficult to treat.


 

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