Melanoma as an Oncogene-Addicted Cancer

Source: OncLive, May 2019


Hussein A. Tawbi, MD: An oncogene-addicted cancer is a cancer that is driven almost entirely by 1 specific mutation and 1 specific gene. That’s really interesting because you know, in general, we know that cancers have a lot of mutations and those mutations can occur in various parts of the DNA. Sometimes they can affect the actual gene. Sometimes they don’t affect their function at all. And in very specific situations, a gene can be affected in a way that makes it very active—and becomes almost overactive and kind of goes into overdrive, so to speak—and really becomes so important that it drives the entire metabolism of the cancer cell. It drives the entire actually malignant phenotype of the cancer cell. It becomes so important to that cancer cell that if you by any chance manage to actually block it or stop its activity, that cancer cell actually dies, and that’s why we actually call it oncogene-addicted: because it basically takes over the entire cell. If you manage in some respects to be able to kind of counteract that, you actually can kill the cancer cell.

Ryan J. Sullivan, MD: An oncogene is a normal gene that is in all our cells, which are encoded by our DNA. However, in cancer it becomes activated. Typically it’s turned on by a mutation, which is a change in the DNA, which then will drive activation of that gene and a number of downstream consequences that typically lead to growth, survival, evasion of the immune system, recruitment of blood vessels, and a number of other features of a cell that’s dangerous to people.

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