Study: Primary cilia activity may mediate skin cancer

September 1, 2009
Allison Tsai

San Francisco - New research suggests that primary cilia can either promote or suppress certain types of skin cancer, depending on the mutation triggering the disease, according to a study published in Nature Medicine.

San Francisco - New research suggests that primary cilia can either promote or suppress certain types of skin cancer, depending on the mutation triggering the disease, according to a study published in Nature Medicine.

The studies looked at basal cell carcinoma in mice, but researchers say if results translate to people, it could present new cancer treatment strategies. 

Primary cilia help determine which genes are activated in the nucleus, and two cilia proteins, Smoothened and Gli, are pivotal in the process, according to a University of California San Francisco press release. When mutated, the proteins can cause basal cell carcinoma and other cancers.

Primary cilia could indicate the specific mutation causing cancer and help identify the aggressiveness of the tumor, researchers say.

The research showed that removing primary cilia from skin cancer cells blocks the mutated, hyperactive Smoothened from stimulating tumor growth, but removing primary cilia actually boosts tumor growth spurred by Gli, according to researchers.

Targeting primary cilia with drugs could neutralize the effect of the mutations, researchers say.

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