Fishing for new leads in rare mucosal melanoma

November 01, 2018

vector-zebrafish

Zebrafish are an emerging power tool in cancer research. They can be engineered to light up when certain genes turn on — capturing the moment when a cancer is initiated. Because they breed so quickly, they lend themselves to rapid, large-scale chemical screening studies, so they can help identify tumor promoters and suppressors. Now, a new study in Science demonstrates, zebrafish can also help scientists dissect the intricate molecular pathways that underlie many cancers, and could help guide treatment strategies — in this case, for mucosal melanoma.

Mucosal melanomas are rare tumors found not on the skin, but in the linings of the respiratory tract, mouth, GI tract and genitourinary tract. They tend to come to light only when very advanced. Their biology is poorly understood, and they tend to lack the genetic mutations associated with skin melanomas. Thus, few patients benefit from targeted therapies. The five-year survival rate is only 33 percent.

That’s where Leonard Zon, MD, and his colleagues at Boston Children’s Hospital thought they could help. Zon’s lab had already developed a zebrafish melanoma model that faithfully simulates human melanoma tumors and is easy to manipulate genetically. Could it shed new light on mucosal melanomas?

Read the full story on Vector.

Media Inquiries

Peter Cohenno
774-218-5530
peter_cohenno@dfci.harvard.edu

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