When it comes to the epigenetics of cancer, there isn’t much that’s easy when trying to understand what makes a tumor; but now a talented team from the University of Michigan has just made understating it all that much EZer.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common cancer in people of Caucasian descent. Most BCCs can be successfully treated with surgery but some BCC tumors are more aggressive and can recur and invade deeply, making successful treatment quite challenging.
Aggressive tumors in sensitive locations such as the face, and particularly around the eyes, ears and mouth, are also quite challenging to treat. Currently, diagnosis of BCC is based on strict histologic criteria, using standard staining and microscopy. However, histology is not particularly predictive of a BCC tumor’s clinical aggressiveness and the puzzle appears incomplete.
In order to gain epigenetic insight the team examined EZH2, which is a H3K27 methyltransferase. Evaluating the expression pattern of EZH2 in BCC tumor samples from 60 patients, along with assessment of cell proliferation and histologic grade, revealed that:
- Expression of EZH2 protein is increased in more aggressive forms of BCCs vs. less aggressive tumors.
- EZH2 expression correlated with Ki67 expression, a marker of cell proliferation.
- EZH2 and Ki67 expression was highly correlative with histologic grade.
This report suggests that anti-EZH2 therapy may be effective for aggressive forms of BCC. Ultimately, EZH2 and Ki67 appear to be promising biomarkers that complement histologic criteria and may serve as future therapeutic targets to improve the success of treatment. Moving forward, this study gives some epigenetic vision to the VISORB clinical trial.
Go learn how to distinguish aggressive tumors with EZ over at JAMA Oncology, April 2016.
**EpiGenie would like to thank Rajesh Rao for providing the content of this write-up**