A study published in the journal Genes and Development, reveals new insights about cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. The researchers, led by Erwin Wagner, head of the F- BBVA – CNIO Cancer Cell Biology Program and of the Genes, Development and Disease Group, have turned their attention to oncogene c -Fos, which is an oncogene that is involved in many cellular processes related to cancer, and found a new mechanism by which c -Fos oncogene promotes skin cancer. According to the study, squamous cell carcinoma is triggered by the stimulation of the immune system which is caused by an increase in expression c-Fos oncogene in the skin.
Also, researchers have found that squamous cell carcinoma progression can be slowed down by anti-inflammatory drugs. It seems that anti-inflammatory drugs block the immune response triggered by c -Fos oncogene. Regarding the inflammatory immune response, it was believed until recently that the body has defense mechanisms when a cancer develops. But recently there has been increasingly more evidence that chronic inflammation plays an important role in cancer as it stimulates the growth and survival of cancer cells.
Juan Guinea – Viniegra researcher from the Wagner ‘s team, said that they know that there are certain cancers such as pancreatic, liver and colon cancer in which inflammation plays an important role. Another argument that supports the role of inflammation in cancer is that there are many inflammatory skin diseases such as lupus or chronic ulcers that increase the risk of cancer, even though researchers could not find out the mechanisms behind this process.
Eva Briso, first author of the study, explained how the immune response and c -Fos oncogene promote the development of skin cancer. Laboratory experiments showed that in mice that have an increased expression of c -Fos in the skin there is a recruitment of CD4 + T cells, which are part of the immune system, and these triggers carcinogenesis. Briso also said that tumors decreased when treated with anti-inflammatory drugs ( which blocked the immune response mediated by CD4 + T cells ).
In addition, when researchers investigated c -Fos expression in squamous cell carcinoma, they found that most of these tumors had an increased expression of the oncogene. Of the approximately one hundred patients with SCCs investigated, 75 % of them had an increased expression of c -Fos and increased inflammatory activity. Based on these new findings, researchers are now thinking to develop new therapies to treat skin cancer.