Melanoma – the deadliest and most aggressive form of skin cancer – has long been linked to time spent in the sun. Now a team led by scientists from the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has sequenced the whole genomes of 25 metastatic melanoma tumors, confirming the role of chronic sun exposure and revealing new genetic changes important in tumor formation.
In an article published online May 9 in Nature, the authors provide the first high-resolution view of the genomic landscape of human melanoma tumors.
Previous genetic analyses have focused on the exomes of many types of cancer tumors, concentrating on the tiny fraction of the genome that provides the genetic code for producing proteins.
Whole genomes contain a wealth of genetic information, and by sequencing and analyzing 25 metastatic melanoma tumors – a significant technical and computational feat – scientists can learn vastly more about the variety of genetic alterations that matter in melanoma.
When the scientists explored the whole genome data generated and analyzed at the Broad, they found that the rates of genetic mutations rose along with chronic sun exposure in patients, confirming the role of sun damage in disease development.