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Novel Biomarker: Potential Link to Improved Therapy for Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas

By: Celeste L. Dixon
Posted: Monday, April 1, 2024

In basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, a novel way of potentially determining whether a fibroblast is cancer-associated or normal has emerged. The mitochondrial DNA common deletion could prove to be a potential molecular biomarker of cancer-associated fibroblast identity. Hailey L. Gahlon, PhD, of ETH Zurich, and colleagues described their work in Scientific Reports.

Cancer-associated fibroblasts, components of the tumor microenvironment, “represent appealing therapeutic targets for translational studies,” they wrote. “In squamous cell carcinoma– and basal cell carcinoma cancer–associated fibroblasts, the [mitochondrial DNA] common deletion levels were significantly lower in comparison to [their] levels in normal fibroblasts.” The decreased levels of mitochondrial DNA common deletions, they continued, are not attributable to altered mitochondria count or cellular redox state. Instead, they are potentially linked to the generalized overexpression of mitochondrial DNA maintenance genes in cancer-associated fibroblasts.

Specifically, “decreased mitochondrial DNA common deletion content in cancer-associated fibroblasts was associated with moderate to strong overexpression of mitochondrial DNA–encoded genes and to slightly improved mitochondrial function,” stated Dr. Gahlon and co-investigators. “By using the identified nucleic acids–based indicators, identification of cancer-associated fibroblasts from normal fibroblasts could be improved, leading to potential therapeutic benefits in advancing translational and clinical studies.”

Furthermore, the research team addressed differences they uncovered between the two types of skin cancer. It was “surprising to us [that] the squamous cell carcinoma cancer–associated fibroblasts had very significant overexpression as compared [with] normal fibroblasts…, much more so than for the basal cell carcinoma cancer–associated fibroblasts,” they wrote. Perhaps, they postulated, this is because squamous cell carcinoma, vs basal cell carcinoma, is often associated with a stronger cancer phenotype.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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