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Researchers found a missing genetic link that helps melanoma cells defeat mortality


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Scientists discovered the perfect combination of genetic alterations that tumors use to promote explosive growth and prevent death.
For years, scientists have observed strikingly long telomeres in melanoma tumors, especially in comparison with other cancer types.
“There’s some special link between melanoma and telomere maintenance,” - Jonathan Alder, assistant professor at Pitt’s School of Medicine.
Many types of cancers use mutations in the telomerase gene, TERT, that allow cells to continue growing.
About 75% of melanoma tumors contain mutations in the TERT gene.
Mutations in a telomere binding protein called TPP1 were strikingly similar to those of TERT.
Mutated TERT and TPP1 synergized to create the distinctively long telomeres in melanoma tumors.
TPP1 was the missing factor scientists had been searching for, and it was hiding in plain sight all along.
By identifying a telomere maintenance system that is unique to cancer, scientists have a new target for treatments.
Study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine published in Science.

Mutations in a telomere binding protein provide a new approach to treat melanoma and other cancers

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Jonathan Alder

Aassistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at Pitt’s School of Medicine


Peer-reviewed academic online journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Medical school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.