Friday, January 6, 2017

Promising drug may halt spread of deadly skin cancer

CANCER DIGEST – Jan. 6, 2017 – A potential new drug may block the spread of melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer, by up to 90 percent, say researchers at the University of Michigan.

The drug developed originally to treat scleroderma, a rare but often fatal autoimmune disease, was found to be effective in blocking the genetic mechanism that triggers melanoma’s spread to other parts of the body.

Led by Richard Neubig, chairperson of pharmacology toxicology and Kate Appleton, a postdoctoral student, and their collaborators had been working to develop the compound to stop proteins, known as Myocardin-related transcription factors, or MRTFs. These proteins trigger production of a series of proteins that ultimately cause the disease to aggressively spread in the body.

When they applied the drug to melanoma the compound reduced the migration of melanoma cells by 85 to 90 percent. The team also discovered that the potential drug greatly reduced tumors specifically in the lungs of mice that had been injected with human melanoma cells. Their findings appear in the January 2017 issue of the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

Being able to block along this entire path allowed the researchers to find the MRTF signaling protein as a new target. Appleton said figuring out which patients have this pathway turned on is an important next step in the development of their compound because it would help them determine which patients would benefit the most.

“The effect of our compounds on turning off this melanoma cell growth and progression is much stronger when the pathway is activated,” she said. “We could look for the activation of the MRTF proteins as a biomarker to determine risk, especially for those in early-stage melanoma.”

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