Essential Science: New drug combination could treat melanoma

Posted Dec 10, 2018 by Tim Sandle
Rates of melanoma are increasing worldwide, making it increasingly a matter of medical importance. A new drug combination, which is effective against the skin cancer, could save millions of lives each year.
Australia has among the highest incidences of melanoma in the world
Australia has among the highest incidences of melanoma in the world
The drug combination uses protein kinase inhibitors. These have been reported as the most effective class of drugs in the treatment of melanoma. A protein kinase inhibitor is a type of enzyme inhibitor that blocks the action of one or more protein kinases. Protein kinases are enzymes that add a phosphate group to a protein.
Some kinase inhibitors are being examined for use in the treatment of cancer and inflammation (so-called cancer growth blockers). However, the effectiveness of kinase inhibitors on various cancers, at least up until now, seems to vary from patient to patient.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer of the melanocytes. Melanomas tend to occur in the skin and with women, they most commonly occur on the legs, but with men the cancer is most common on the back. The main cause of melanoma is ultraviolet light exposure, either sunlight or sunbeds, especially in those with low levels of skin pigment.
More details about the process are shown in the following video:
The new research comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). With this, MIT researchers propose that combining kinase inhibitors with experimental drugs called ribonucleases can result in improved medical treatments.
Ribonuclease (commonly abbreviated RNase) is a type of nuclease that catalyzes the degradation of RNA into smaller components. They are common digestive enzymes. In recent years several have become recognized as promising cancer chemotherapeutic agents.
Better reactions were seen with tests undertaken with human cancer cells. The experiments revealed that when the two drugs are administered together they can kill cancerous cells more effectively than either drug does on its own.
The research also demonstrated that the drug combination can also aid in preventing tumors from developing drug resistance.
According to lead researcher Ronald Raines, the Firmenich Professor of Chemistry at MIT. Summing up the research, he states: “We discovered that this ribonuclease drug could be paired favorably with other cancer chemotherapeutic agents, and not only that, the pairing made logical sense in terms of the underlying biochemistry.”
The research remains at any early stage. However, following the successful reactions seen on human cells within the laboratory, the researchers have developed a ribonuclease drug. One version of such drug has already made it to phase 1 clinical trial, stabilizing the disease in about 20 percent of patients.
Research paper
The research has been published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. The research paper is titled “A Human Ribonuclease Variant and ERK-Pathway Inhibitors Exhibit Highly Synergistic Toxicity for Cancer Cells.”
Essential Science
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week’s topic was Parkinson’s disease. This was centered on a new drug that aims to freeze Parkinson's disease in its tracks. The drug targets neuroinflammation, and researchers think this could halt further neuronal loss in Parkinson’s disease.
The week before the topic of interest was around research that has discovered the more sensitive people are to the bitter taste of caffeine, the more coffee they drink.