2014 – Dr. Ivana de la Serna – University of Toledo

Melanoma Know more Awards University of Toledo Researcher with Award to Study Melanoma

Melanoma Know More is pleased to announce that it has awarded Dr. Ivana de la Serna, a researcher at the University of Toledo, a $10,000 award toward her research on the role of epigenetic regulators in melanocyte development, response to ultraviolet radiation, and in the oncogenic transformation of melanocytes to melanoma.  Epigenetics is the study of stable changes in gene expression that do not involve changes in DNA sequence or mutations.  Recently, the development of several drugs that target epigenetic regulators offers  promising new way to treat human diseases. Dr. de la Serna’s lab is focused on three key epigenetic regulators, the SWI/SNF components, BRD4, and PRMT5.  Her lab was the first to link the SWI/SNF complex to a melanocyte specific factor called MITF which is important for establishment of the melanocyte lineage as well as for melanoma proliferation and metastasis.  The SWI/SNF complex is made up of 10-12 different components.  They are currently elucidating the role of each SWI/SNF component in melanocyte development, melanocyte response to ultraviolet radiation, and in melanoma proliferation, metastasis, and response to current therapeutics.  Their goals are to identify the SWI/SNF components that can be targeted in melanocytes in the protection against the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation and for treatment of melanoma.

Two new projects in the lab are focused on two additional epigenetic regulators, PRMT5 and Brd4.  Their current work is focused on elucidating their functions in melanocytes and melanoma cells.  “Brd4 is especially exciting because drugs have been developed that can alter its activity.  Our work suggests that Brd4 is not only a protein that can regulate melanocyte proliferation, but that it may also be targeted for melanoma prevention,” said Dr. de la Serna.

Their work on the SWI/SNF complex in melanoma, conducted in tissue cultured melanocytes and melanoma cells, has provided key insights into how this complex interact with melanocyte and melanoma specific factors to regulate gene expression and impact upon development, proliferation, and metastasis.  The next critical step will be to perform these studies in an animal model.  They have started experiments where we will disrupt one central SWI/SNF component, BRG1, in  a mouse model of melanoma and determine if the disruption of BRG1 promotes or inhibits melanoma initiation and progression.  They plan to assess tumor formation, and global changes in gene expression in mice disrupted for BRG1.  These studies are essential for determining whether BRG1  is a good target for melanoma prevention or treatment.

To learn more about Dr. Ivana de la Serna and her team at the University of Toledo, click here.