Inhibiting a specific protein eliminated metastasis of melanoma in laboratory experiments, a finding that could lead to targeted therapies to stop metastasis in not only melanoma but, potentially, a broad range of cancers.

In the study, Raf kinase inhibitor protein (RKIP) was found to bind with melanoma differentiation associated gene-9 (MDA-9), also known as syntenin, which functions as a positive regulator of melanoma progression and metastasis. Previous research demonstrated that interaction between MDA-9 and another protein, c-Src, led to increased metastasis.

The investigators learned that when RKIP binds to MDA-9, MDA-9 expression is inhibited, as they explained in Cancer Research (2012;72[23]:6217-6226). They also found that MDA-9 levels were higher than RKIP levels in malignant and metastatic melanoma cells, whereas RKIP levels were higher than MDA-9 levels in healthy melanocytes. Changes in levels of expression of these two proteins could potentially be used as a tool to track the development of melanoma or a patient’s response to treatment.

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Because earlier studies have shown that MDA-9 is elevated in a majority of cancers, the current findings could be applicable to a wide range of diseases.