New research on a protein could cure skin cancer
Researchers at the U have found a protein that plays a major role in the metastasis of melanoma and have developed a protein inhibitor to reduce the spread of the cancer to the lungs in mice.
Melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer and is also one of the most common cancers in adults ages 25-29. As with any cancer, if it is caught early, survival rates improve. Melanoma is categorized into nine stages, each with its own survival rate.
The American Cancer Society reports that melanoma develops in melanocytes, or skin cells. These cells make melanin, which gives skin its color and protects the deeper layers from ultraviolet rays. Moles are a type of benign, or noncancerous, skin tumor that develops from different types of cells.
Researchers have found about one in 50 people will develop melanoma in their lifetime.
“Metastasis is what makes melanoma lethal, but our knowledge of how melanoma spreads is limited,” said Allie Grossmann, a molecular genetic pathology fellow, in a press release. “By improving our understanding of the cellular machinery responsible for melanoma metastasis, we can better identify targeted therapies that may stop the spread of cancer cells.”
Treatments currently available are not able to cure the cancer completely for the rest of most patients’ lives. U researchers have discovered that the small molecule known as SecinH3 can slow the metastatic process by inhibiting the adenosine diphosphate ribosylation factor 6 (ARF6) protein.
“Our findings are exciting because the clinical implications extend beyond melanoma to other cancers, such as breast cancer and a type of brain cancer known as glioblastoma,” Grossmann said.
The researchers are working with Navigen Inc., a pharmaceutical and medical device company based in Salt Lake City, to investigate other molecules that can slow the ARF6 protein in pre-clinical studies.
SecinH3 is not yet available for treatment in humans with melanoma, but has served as a type of blueprint to show how this type of inhibitor can have medical value in studying melanoma and other cancers.
“These new therapies could potentially be used in combination with current drugs to produce a more effective treatment for melanoma,” said Shannon Odelberg, professor of internal medicine, neurobiology and anatomy and Navigen scientist.
U researchers and Navigen worked with researchers from the University of Notre Dame and ARUP Institute for Clinical and Experimental Pathology.
The study was funded in part by a grant from the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
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