Cancer cells and cells in developing embryos share two important characteristics: they rapidly proliferate and they are capable of migrating extensively. Because of this, it has been suggested that perhaps cancers are formed when adult cells mistakenly trigger dormant embryonic programs. In our lab, we are addressing this hypothesis using pigment cells, called melanocytes. Using classical genetic techniques, we seek to identify new genes that play a role in melanocyte development, to better understand the basic processes of cell migration, differentiation, survival and proliferation. We then study the role of these genes in human melanomas, cancers of melanocytes, which are increasingly common in Canada.