The main goals of the Melanoma Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) are to identify biomarkers of tumor progression and to validate novel therapeutic targets in melanoma. In particular, their research focuses on discovering features that define the "fingerprint" of this tumor, features that distinguish it from other cancer types. The latest study in this area, published recently in Nature Communications, describes the roles of CPEB4; a protein that is crucial for melanoma cell survival. Melanomas are particularly aggressive and finding mechanisms that drive this behaviour has been complicated due to the unexpectedly high mutation rate associated with this malignancy. The group headed by Marisol Soengas, Ph.D., senior author of this paper, is expert in researching the "identity" of melanomas. "In previous studies, we have demonstrated that melanomas are very different from other types of tumors in that they activate mechanisms of self-degradation (autophagy), or control the internalization and secretion of molecules, for example," explains Dr. Soengas. They have now found that the CPEB4 protein, which is of great interest in the cancer field, plays a selective and essential role in melanoma cells. In broad terms, CPEBs are involved in the regulation of gene expression and are associated with important cellular processes, such as cell division, cell differentiation, or cell polarity and migration. In tumors, the expression of CPEBs varies, and seemingly opposing, pro- and anti-tumor, roles have been described in other tumor types, but not in melanoma. CPEB4, a member of this family, was "especially attractive" to the authors "given its overexpression in tumors such as gliomas and pancreatic carcinomas, which are also aggressive".
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