Nav: Home

Mysterious molecule's function in skin cancer identified

May 03, 2017

Lake Nona, Fla., May 3, 2017 -- New research from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) at Lake Nona uncovers the modus operandi of a mysterious molecule called SPRIGHTLY that has been previously implicated in colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, bolster the case for exploring SPRIGHTLY as a potential therapeutic target, or a biological marker that identifies cancer or predicts disease prognosis.

"We show in this study that SPRIGHTLY acts as a hub for organizing cancer-related genes in the nucleus of the cell," says the study's senior author Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., scientific director of analytical genomics and bioinformatics at SBP Lake Nona. "These genes may be promising individually or in combination with SPRIGHTLY as therapeutic targets in the fight against cancer."

SPRIGHTLY is a type of molecule called long non-coding RNA (lncRNA). LncRNAs have long been regarded as junk because they aren't translated into protein. However, in the past few years they have been linked to essential roles in the cell, and their misregulation has been linked to disease.

Perera's group has previously shown that SPRIGHTLY is present at higher levels in melanoma cells than in normal skin cells and that lowering levels of the molecule promotes cancer cell death. They have also found that the amounts of SPRIGHTLY and other lncRNAs are elevated in prostate cancer compared to normal tissue, suggesting that SPRIGHTLY might be a diagnostic or prognostic marker for cancer.

"In some patient tumor samples and cancer cell lines, researchers have found that quantities of certain lncRNAs are increased," says the study's first author Bongyong Lee, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in Perera's lab. "But to understand the significance of that, we need to know what these molecules do in cells. The best way to do that is to look at their binding partners."

LncRNAs bind to many cell components including DNA and protein. Perera's lab decided to go a step further and investigate whether SPRIGHTLY makes contact with other RNAs in melanoma cells.

The team used a technique that chemically crosslinks SPRIGHTLY to its neighbors, which revealed that SPRIGHTLY indeed bound to 115 RNA partners that code for proteins, six of them considered "major" partners. Interestingly, all six genes were already implicated in a variety of cancers.

The scientists then used CRISPR/Cas9, a newer genomic modification method, to reduce SPRIGHTLY expression in melanoma cells, finding that the levels of most of its six major partners also decreased as a result. Reintroducing SPRIGHTLY normalized these levels, the group found. Moreover, in an immunocompromised mouse model of melanoma, tumors with only a small amount of SPRIGHTLY grew much slower than did tumors with more typical levels of the RNA.

The group is also interested in understanding SPRIGHTLY's role in metastasis. In the new study, large data analysis of the relationships among SPRIGHTLY's various RNA binding partners conducted by SBP collaborators Shaojie Zhang Ph.D., (University of Central Florida) and Animesh Ray, Ph.D., (Keck Graduate Institute in Claremont, Calif.,) suggests that the lncRNA could be involved in melanoma metastasis to the brain. The team is planning to test this hypothesis and others suggested by network analysis.
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants CA165184, NCI 5P30CA030199 and DP5 OD012160, and Florida Department of Health, Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program 5BC08.

About SBP

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) is an independent nonprofit medical research organization that conducts world-class, collaborative, biological research and translates its discoveries for the benefit of patients. SBP focuses its research on cancer, immunity, neurodegeneration, metabolic disorders and rare children's diseases. The Institute invests in talent, technology and partnerships to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries that will have the greatest impact on patients. Recognized for its world-class NCI-designated Cancer Center and the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, SBP employs about 1,100 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at or on Facebook at and on Twitter @SBPdiscovery.

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Related Cancer Articles:

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.
Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.