A new drug compound could combat tough-to-treat melanoma
Melanoma is commonly caused by the damaging effects of ultraviolet light—from sources like sunlight and tanning beds—on the DNA of skin cells. This UV damage can activate genes that encourage precancerous cells to further mutate into full-blown skin cancer. At the same time, UV damage can turn off other genes that would normally prevent tumor growth. With enough wrongly flipped switches, cancer can flourish. And melanoma is certainly flourishing. This year alone, 96,480 new instances of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States and 7,230 Americans will die from the disease.
With so many people affected by melanoma, scientists are on the hunt for better ways to screen for melanoma risk and treat the most lethal types of skin cancer. One particularly voracious type of melanoma, caused by mutation of a gene called NRAS (which instructs cells to produce a protein of the same name, NRAS), drives 25 percent of skin cancers.
“There are immunotherapies and targeted therapies that have shown huge improvements for patients with melanoma,” said Rutao Cui, a Boston University School of Medicine professor of pharmacology and dermatology. “However, for patients with NRAS mutations, they don’t have very useful or very effective treatment strategies.”
Now, an international research team led by Cui has discovered a new way to stop the progression of melanoma by NRAS mutations with the flip of a genetic switch. Their findings were published January 31, 2019, in Cell.
Inside our bodies, proteins like NRAS play the role of dominoes, interacting with one another to switch other important gene activities on or off. The researchers set out in search of a way to interrupt the process in which mutated NRAS can instigate the growth of skin cancer. Since targeting the NRAS gene—just one of several dominoes in this type of skin cancer pathway—has proven to be so difficult, the researchers were determined to find another approach.
For NRAS to trigger cancer development, it first needs to be activated by another protein in the body. Until now, it’s been unknown exactly which protein is responsible for activating NRAS. But after testing the effect of several different proteins on the activity of NRAS, the team zeroed in on a likely culprit, a protein by the name of STK19.
STK19 is not a newly discovered protein in its own right, but its purpose has not been known until now. Cui’s team found that STK19 appears to work as an “on” switch for NRAS—activating production of NRAS proteins which, in turn, trigger the toppling of several other genetic dominoes downstream.
The researchers also found that, unlike NRAS, they could disable the STK19 gene and greatly diminish its ability to set the skin cancer sequence in motion.
Together, the team designed a new drug compound to shut down the effect of STK19 on NRAS. Then, testing its effect on skin cells cultured in petri dishes and in animal models, they proved that their compound can block NRAS activation and prevent melanoma from developing.
Cui says that this result is exciting not just for melanoma, but for other cancers as well. While the relationship between STK19 and NRAS may be particular to skin cancer, the approaches the team used to identify and block key activating proteins can be applied to find new treatments for similarly difficult-to-cure cancers.
Now the research team is looking to take their research to clinical trials to test out the STK19 inhibitor in humans, and hopefully, someday make it available as a targeted therapy to combat NRAS-driven melanomas.
In the meantime, Cui says that much work still needs to be done to not only create better and more precise treatments for patients suffering with melanoma, but also to alert vulnerable populations about the risk factors associated with the cancer.
“We need more monitoring for early diagnosis and full-body examinations for problematic spots,” says Cui, “and more proactive strategies for patients [at the highest risk of developing melanoma] to prevent cancer progression and metastasis.”
Learn more: Shutting Down Skin Cancer
The Latest on: Skin cancer
via Google News
The Latest on: Skin cancer
- 9 Ways to Spot Skin Cancer Before It Kills on February 6, 2019 at 3:28 pm
The American Cancer Society reports that “skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer,” but it’s also one of the more survivable ones, in large part because it’s often detected in the earlies... […]
- On immunotherapy trial, long-term survivors of deadly skin cancer point to a hopeful future on February 6, 2019 at 2:00 pm
More than two-thirds of people with an advanced form of a rare skin cancer are on track to survive at least two years after starting an immunotherapy drug on a landmark clinical trial, researchers rep... […]
- Former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres Just Revealed Her Skin Cancer Diagnosis on February 6, 2019 at 1:35 pm
Dayanara Torres, former Miss Universe, revealed she has skin cancer in an Instagram video. According to Dayanara, the melanoma was discovered in a "big spot/mole" she never "paid attention to." Dayana... […]
- Former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres says she has skin cancer: ‘I have put everything in God’s hands’ on February 6, 2019 at 12:15 pm
Miss Universe 1993 titleholder Dayanara Torres revealed on Monday she was diagnosed with skin cancer. The 44-year-old made the tearful announcement in Spanish on Instagram Feb. 4 — World Cancer Day. “ ... […]
- Mom who lost ear to skin cancer claims tanning as teen led to disease on February 6, 2019 at 7:42 am
A mother in the U.K. is calling for a ban on tanning beds after she claims her affinity for fake color as a young teen led to the eventual amputation of her left ear. Anthea Smith, who said she starte... […]
- 'Love Island generation' skin cancer fear on February 6, 2019 at 12:07 am
Media captionKarl Dinis, from Cardiff, has been injecting himself with Melanotan 2 for 10 years and says he loves the tan it gives him. The "Love Island generation" are risking their health by going t... […]
- Former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres Tearfully Reveals Her Skin Cancer Has Spread on February 5, 2019 at 10:41 pm
The Puerto Rican model, who is the ex-wife of Marc Anthony, has undergone two surgeries to remove a big area from the back of her knee and also remove two lymph nodes at the top of her leg where the c... […]
- Actress Dayanara Torres has skin cancer: 'I have put everything in God's hands' on February 5, 2019 at 2:20 pm
A breathalyzer that could detect multiple types of cancer is currently being tested in Cambridge, England. Buzz60 Actress Dayanara Torres says she has skin cancer. And after two surgeries, she's waiti... […]
- Model-actress Dayanara Torres says she has skin cancer on February 5, 2019 at 11:03 am
NEW YORK (AP) — Model and actress Dayanara Torres says she has skin cancer and has already undergone two surgeries. The former Miss Universe said in an Instagram post Monday that doctors have already ... […]
- Boulder biotech firm's skin cancer drugs drive 'strong' second quarter on February 5, 2019 at 8:14 am
A Boulder-based biotech company that has recently transitioned to a fully-integrated firm with drugs on the market and a pipeline of new cancer-fighting products on the way reported a strong second qu... […]
via Bing News