Transcriptional regulators and alterations that drive melanoma initiation and progression

Academic Article


  • Although melanoma is the least frequent type of skin cancer, it accounts for the majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Large-scale sequencing efforts have led to the classification of melanoma into four major subtypes (i.e., BRAF-mutant, NRAS-mutant, NF1-deficient, and triple wild-type). These sequencing studies have also revealed that melanoma genomes are some of the most mutated genomes of all cancers and therefore have a high neoantigen load. These findings have resulted in the development and clinical use of targeted therapies against the oncogenic BRAF→MEK→ERK pathway and immune checkpoint inhibitors for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Although some patients with metastatic melanoma benefit immensely from these transformative therapies, others either become resistant or do not respond at all. These clinical challenges have intensified the search for new drug targets and drugs that can benefit patients who are either intrinsically resistant or have acquired resistance to targeted therapies and immunotherapies. Numerous signaling pathways and oncogenic drivers can cause changes in mRNA transcription that in turn drive melanoma initiation and progression. Transcriptional regulation of mRNA expression is necessary to maintain cell identity and cellular plasticity via the regulation of transcription factor expression and function, promoter/enhancer activities, chromatin regulators, and three-dimensional genome organization. Transcriptional deregulation can arise due to genetic and/or non-genetic alterations in the genome. Specifically, these deregulated transcriptional programs can become liabilities for melanoma cells due to their acquired dependencies on these programs for survival, which can be harnessed to develop new therapies for melanoma. In this article, we present an overview of the mechanisms that result in the transcriptional deregulation of mRNA expression in melanoma cells and assess how these changes facilitate melanoma initiation and progression. We also describe how these deregulated transcriptional pathways represent new opportunities for the development of unconventional and potentially impactful treatments for metastatic melanoma.
  • Published In

  • Oncogene  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Gupta R; Janostiak R; Wajapeyee N
  • Start Page

  • 7093
  • End Page

  • 7105
  • Volume

  • 39
  • Issue

  • 48