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NCI Cancer Center News

Scientists discover melanoma-driving genetic changes caused by sun damage

  • Posted: July 20, 2012

It's been a burning question in melanoma research: Tumor cells are full of ultraviolet (UV)-induced genetic damage caused by sunlight exposure, but which mutations drive this cancer? None have been conclusively tied to melanoma. The sheer abundance of these passenger mutations has obscured the search for genetic driver mutations that actually matter in melanoma development and progression. By creating a method to spot the drivers in a sea of passengers, scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The University of  Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have identified six genes with driving mutations in melanoma, three of which have recurrent 'hotspot' mutations as a result of damage inflicted by UV light. Their findings are reported in the July 20 issue of the journal Cell.

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Among the research institutions NCI funds across the United States, it currently designates 66 as Cancer Centers. Largely based in research universities, these facilities are home to many of the NCI-supported scientists who conduct a wide range of intense, laboratory research into cancer’s origins and development. The Cancer Centers Program also focuses on trans-disciplinary research, including population science and clinical research. The centers’ research results are often at the forefront of studies in the cancer field.

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