Computer Science and Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



PLoS ONE 7(1): e30750


Copyright 2012 Xu et al.

Open access



A comparative analysis of genome-scale transcriptomic data of two types of skin cancers, melanoma and basal cell carcinoma in comparison with other cancer types, was conducted with the aim of identifying key regulatory factors that either cause or contribute to the aggressiveness of melanoma, while basal cell carcinoma generally remains a mild disease. Multiple cancer-related pathways such as cell proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis, cell invasion and metastasis, are considered, but our focus is on energy metabolism, cell invasion and metastasis pathways. Our findings include the following. (a) Both types of skin cancers use both glycolysis and increased oxidative phosphorylation (electron transfer chain) for their energy supply. (b) Advanced melanoma shows substantial up-regulation of key genes involved in fatty acid metabolism (b-oxidation) and oxidative phosphorylation, with aerobic metabolism being far more efficient than anaerobic glycolysis, providing a source of the energetics necessary to support the rapid growth of this cancer. (c) While advanced melanoma is similar to pancreatic cancer in terms of the activity level of genes involved in promoting cell invasion and metastasis, the main metastatic form of basal cell carcinoma is substantially reduced in this activity, partially explaining why this cancer type has been considered as far less aggressive. Our method of using comparative analyses of transcriptomic data of multiple cancer types focused on specific pathways provides a novel and highly effective approach to cancer studies in general.