J. Clin. Invest. doi:10.1172/JCI34015 (2009)

Human melanoma is resistant to treatment with retinoic acid, which is effective against several other cancers. But by activating the transcription factor SOX9, researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, may have discovered a way to make retinoic acid effective after all.

In a series of cell culture and tissue experiments, Vincent Hearing and his colleagues identified mechanisms by which promoting SOX9 activity slows cell division and sensitizes melanoma cells to the drug. In mice injected with melanoma cells, a drug that activates SOX9 had mild effects on its own, but when combined with retinoic acid significantly reduced the size of tumours.