epigenetic control of
 melanoma initiation

I am proposing to use a remarkable melanoma model in zebrafish using a florescent green protein to mark and characterize the first cells of melanoma at a level of detail not achievable in other settings and also to alter the timing of melanoma onset to teach us about the mechanisms that control its initiation. The zebrafish is a small, fast- growing, and highly fertile vertebrate organism that shares more than 70% of its genes and most major cell types and organ systems with humans. As a model system, the zebrafish will allow us to capture the first cells transitioning to melanoma and to study the earliest events in cancer onset. While a number of remarkable new treatments have recently become available for melanoma, these therapies very rarely cure patients whose disease has spread. If we better understood how melanoma begins at a molecular level, then we could detect these changes earlier when melanoma is curable with simple excision. Eventually, we could aim to interrupt this process with a drug, so the melanoma never gets started. The ultimate goal of this project is to allow doctors to detect and treat melanoma skin cancer at the earliest time possible.