Using a technology devised at Yale five years ago, researchers have found what may be a new target for treatment of melanoma. The Yale team used AQUA (automated quantitative analysis) to measure protein expression in melanoma tissue microarrays. In a study in Nature in July they reported that microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), a protein involved in cell survival, abnormally copies itself many times over. This over-expression was prevalent in metastatic disease and correlated with decreased rates of patient survival.
This suggests, said David L. Rimm, M.D., Ph.D., HS ’93, an author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Pathology, that MITF may represent a distinct class of oncogene that is necessary for tumor progression. Reduction of MITF activity sensitizes melanoma cells to chemo-therapeutic agents, and targeting MITF in combination with other drugs may offer a new approach to treating melanoma.