At the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute's Beaker blog, Ana Miletic Sedy profiles researcher Ranjan Perera and his colleagues who are working toward finding the mechanism through which UV radiation triggers gene expression in skin cells to cause melanoma. While exposure to UV radiation is a risk factor for skin cancer, it's not clear how UV radiation epigenetically influences gene expression, Sedy says. "The questions Perera wants to answer are, 'Can we use epigenetic changes or methylation signatures as prognostic or diagnostic markers to differentiate early melanoma from benign growths? And can we also use these markers for disease staging of advanced tumors?'" she adds.
Perera and his team study how many microRNAs are being epigenetically regulated in melanoma. In a recent study, Sedy says, they found that levels of miR-375 and miR-34b were decreased in melanoma cell lines, and that methylation affecting miR-375 and miR-34b in later-stage melanoma was generally absent in normal skin cells and stage 1 melanoma cell lines. "This is an early indication that we have something interesting," Perera tells Sedy. "One day, we may have a whole list of signatures that we can actually compare to someone's personal genome to see any areas that we need to watch out for."