Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Recently a specific and potent inhibitor, able to specifically target only cancer cells in about 50% of melanoma patients was developed. Unfortunately, in spite of the efficacy of this drug, all patients developed resistance to treatments after a few months. It is therefore important to develop new drugs that can be used alone or in combination with already existing compounds. Also, it is fundamental to find new early diagnostic markers of the disease.
We identifed a molecule in a region of the genome previously thought to contain only “junk” DNA. This region produces a long non-coding RNA, that we called SAMMSON.
SAMMSON is found in melanoma cells as soon as they become malignant and not in normal cells and therefore it could be a potential early marker. Inhibition of SAMMSON results in massive death of melanoma cells in vitro and regression of tumor growth in combination with existing drugs, in mice carrying human tumors from patients. Considering that SAMMSON is expressed in more than 90% of patients selectively in cancer cells and that its inhibition can kill also cells resistant to drugs used in the clinic, it could be a promising therapeutic agent.