When the Rochester Melanoma Action Group was looking for a place to invest its first $25,000 seed grant, it found Glynis Scott, M.D., an accomplished skin pathologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Wilmot Cancer Center, who’s been investigating the basic biology of melanoma for several years.
Scott’s latest work focuses on acral lentiginous melanoma, a rare subtype that tends to afflict African Americans and Asians. It appears under the nails, on the palms of hands and soles of feet, and is highly aggressive.
Acral melanoma also involves different genes. A mutation of the KIT gene triggers a cascade of events leading to cell growth. By studying KIT in normal melanocytes, precursor cells for melanoma, Scott found that another protein, Shp2, participates in the pro-growth signals from KIT. Her goal, therefore, is to determine if targeting Shp2 would put the brakes on KIT.
Gleevec, a cancer drug already available and used as an experimental treatment for some acral lentiginous melanomas, inhibits KIT. But it does not work in all cases, and therefore Scott believes that more patients will be better off if a treatment could target a second important component in the KIT pathway, such as Shp2.
She also noted that Shp2 activity contributes to the growth of some leukemias and triple-negative breast cancer (an aggressive subtype more common to black women than white women).
A professor of Dermatology and Pathology, Scott has additional funding through the National Institutes of Health, but the local seed grant will support a series of expensive bench experiments involving rare melanoma cell lines, she said. The hope is that her discoveries will not only help thousands of skin cancer patients, but could apply to other cancers as well.
For more information about how to support the Rochester Melanoma Action Group, which is holding a second-annual race called Outrun the Sun on Aug., 2, 2013, please visit: http://www.melanomaaction.org/Rochester_Melanoma_Action_Group/Welcome.html