Edinburgh Pathology

Cambridge Independent newspaper reports on Nature Communications paper

The Cambridge Independent newspaper reported (April 2019) on the publication (Nature Communications 2019 Jan 21;10(1):353) “Cross-species genomic landscape comparison of human mucosal melanoma with canine oral and equine melanoma”.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton and University of Guelph in Canada analysed the genomes from mucosal melanoma tumours taken from 46 human, 65 canine and 28 equine melanoma tumours at the primary stage and found several genes (somatic mutations in NRAS, FAT4, PTPRJ, TP53 and PTEN, and pathogenic germline alleles of BRCA1, BRCA2 and TP53) that were mutated in all 3 species. The study is the first genomic experiment of such scale on dog tumours and the first to sequence horse tumours. Grey horses have a genetic predisposition to melanoma, but it does not usually spread, unlike in humans and dogs.

Dr David Adams, corresponding author from the Sanger Institute, said: “Genomics gives us a unique view into the hidden similarities and differences of cancer between species. The genetic changes, or mutations, we found in mucosal melanoma tumours across humans, dogs and horses suggests they are important enough to be conserved between species. These key mutations are likely to drive the cancer and could be targets for the development of new drugs.”

While immunotherapy has been used to treat some people with melanoma, it has not been effective for mucosal melanoma. The research suggests this may be because these tumours carry few mutations, so remain ‘hidden’ to the immune system and do not promote the immune response needed.