Breakthrough in Melanoma Treatment ResearchBy: Ani Kazarian - September 26, 2013
Funded by the National Cancer Institute, The Wistar Institute recently released a finding in their research on treating metastatic melanoma. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that can be found anywhere on the body. Metastatic melanoma spreads to areas of the body other than the site of the original tumor. While usually not life threatening when discovered and treated early, this still remains the most aggressive of skin cancers as it spreads and mutates quickly.
While there are treatments for metastatic melanoma, they aren’t always effective. In a recent article, The Wistart Institute states, “[M]etastatic cancer cells inevitably evolve resistance to drugs. Research found that various mutations in the melanoma increased their resistance to the therapy drugs.” While this finding initially seemed grim, it led researchers to focus on a new aspect of the cancer, the S6K protein.
Current therapies targeted the BRAF and MEK genes, but the melanomas quickly mutated so that the drugs could not block the growth of all of the mutated genes. Researchers have now found that attacking the pathway to the S6K protein, as well as the BRAF and MEK genes simultaneously is an effective method in fighting mutated genes before they become unresponsive to the drugs, blocking the growth of tumors.
This research has not yet been applied to patients, but has created a new approach on treating metastatic melanomas and relevant drug development. The Wistar Institute wrote, “Although a cocktail of two drugs (a combination of BRAF and P13K/mTOR inhibitors, for example) might work, they postulated that using three drugs could be more potent and counter intuitively less toxic at the same time.”
While there is clearly much left to research and learn on this subject, the findings of these studies are hopeful as far as gaining a better understanding of the cancer itself, not to mention the discovery of a new potential cocktail that not only blocks one of the deadliest skin cancers, but introduces less toxicity to the patient than current therapies.
Given that melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers, several institutes and centers continue to conduct ongoing research on the cancer as drug companies attempt further developments to treatments. It is important to note that with laws and policies rapidly changing, new drugs will likely be released more quickly in the future.