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By: Moumita Balakundhi, Diablo Vista Middle School

BRAF is a gene found on chromosome seven that encodes a protein also called BRAF. This protein plays a role in cell growth by sending signals inside the cell promoting, among other functions, cell division. The gene is also referred to as proto-oncogene homolog B, while the protein is more formally known as serine/threonine-protein kinase B-Raf. A specific mutation in the BRAF gene, which makes a protein that is involved in sending signals in cells and in cell growth. This BRAF gene mutation may be found in some types of cancer, including melanoma and colorectal cancer.

A BRAF mutation is a spontaneous alternation in the BRAF gene that causes it to function improperly. A mutation allows the gene to turn on the protein and keep it on, resulting in continuing signals for specific cells to divide with no instructions on when to stop. This can result in the development of a tumor. A protein that aids in delivering chemical signals from the outside of the cell to the nucleus is made possible by the BRAF gene. This protein is a component of the RAS/MAPK signaling pathway, which regulates a number of crucial cell activities. The RAS/MAPK pathway specifically controls cell proliferation, differentiation, migration, and self-destruction (apoptosis). This mechanism of chemical signaling is necessary because the BRAF gene is a member of the oncogenes gene family. Oncogenes have the capacity to transform healthy cells into malignant ones when they are altered. As mentioned before, BRAF is most commonly seen in diseases like melanoma because it increases the growth and the spread of cancer cells. In order to test for melanoma, a biopsy of the suspicious skin area, known as a lesion.

During a biopsy, the doctor takes a small sample of tissue for laboratory testing. Melanoma develops when the pigment- producing cells that give the skin its color develop cancer. A new, unusual growth or a change in an existing mole can be

symptoms. Melanomas can develop on any part of the body. Surgery, radiation, medications, and, in some cases, chemotherapy may be used in treatment. develops in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color (melanocytes). Melanoma can also develop in the eyes and, in rare cases, within the body, such as the nose or throat. Although the exact cause of all melanomas is unknown, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight, tanning lamps, and beds raises your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation may help lower your risk of developing melanoma. Melanoma risk appears to be rising in people under the age of 40, particularly among women. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can aid in detecting and treating cancerous changes before they spread.

In class we learned that the BRAF gene codes for a protein that aids in the transmission of chemical signals from outside the cell to the nucleus. This protein is a component of the RAS/MAPK signaling pathway, which regulates several important cell functions. BRAF not only promotes angiogenesis by activating VEGF secretion, but it also promotes tumor metastasis by regulating pro-angiogenic factors (interleukin-8) and other proteins involved in migration, integrin signaling, and cell contractility. Growth factors enable BRAF-inhibitor melanoma cells to overcome the inhibitory effect by activating alternative signaling pathways. MAPK (map kinase) plays a role in melanoma cell proliferation and survival. In human melanoma cells, the BRAF-MAPK signaling pathway is required for cancer immune evasion. In human cancers, the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway is frequently activated, leading to malignant phenotypes such as autonomous cellular proliferation.

One advancement that a lot of research papers wrote about was immunotherapy. Immunotherapies are treatments that boost the immune system's ability to fight cancer. When compared to other cancer types, melanoma has a relatively high number of genetic mutations that can be recognized by the immune system. This increases the likelihood that melanoma will respond to immunotherapy. Immune checkpoint inhibition, a type of immunotherapy, has shown promising results in some people with advanced melanoma. Three immune checkpoint inhibitors are now approved for the treatment of melanoma that cannot be removed surgically or has metastasis: ipilimumab and nivolumab are also approved for the treatment of some patients with metastatic or unresectable melanoma. More than half of the people who received the combination survived 5 years after treatment in the study that led to its approval. Another clinical trial found that in some patients, this combination can shrink melanoma that has spread to the brain. The combination of nivolumab and relatlimab, a new type of immune checkpoint inhibitor, also extended the time people with advanced melanoma lived without their cancer worsening. This combination, known as Opdualag, received FDA approval in 2022 for people aged 12 and up with untreated melanoma that cannot be removed surgically or has spread throughout the body.

_ By: Vrinda Moka_ (External student, guest post on the request of Mentors)

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Elio Academy.