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Research Identifies Potential Therapeutic Target to Slow Melanoma Growth

Last updated May 4, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

The National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program estimates that when melanoma is localized on the skin, there is a 98% 5 year survival rate. But when the cancer spreads, the rate drops dramatically to 64%.


A new treatment for melanoma may be in the works, according to a study at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The researchers recognized a potential new drug target for this aggressive type of skin cancer, as cancer growth was greatly reduced when blocked in a pre-clinical trial in mice.


Melanoma is known as the most dangerous form of skin cancer that can occur in response to DNA damage to skin cells. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the chief cause of Melanoma is UV radiation or tanning beds, which trigger genetic defects that can cause tumor formation and a rapid production of cells.

The National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program estimates that when melanoma is localized on the skin, there is a 98% 5 year survival rate. But when the cancer spreads, the rate drops dramatically to 64%.

The findings were published in the Clinical Cancer Researchjournal, which reported that high levels of an enzyme, known as interleukin-2 T-cell kinase (ITK), was identified in melanoma samples that could be the prospective drug target. This particular enzyme is normally seen in immune cells, which puzzled researchers.

According to the paper’s senior author Nancy E. Thomas, “We have discovered that ITK is highly expressed in melanoma even though it was thought to be restricted to immune cells, and when you inhibit it, you decrease melanoma growth."

The researchers compiled the following findings from the study:
  • When the melanoma cells were manipulated to express less of the ITK enzyme, the cells reproduced at a lower rate and had less movement
  • An enzyme inhibitor for ITK slowed melanoma tumor growth in mice
  • ITK was found in higher levels in primary and metastatic melanomas (melanomas that spread to other parts of the body) than in non-cancerous moles

With a growing need for new melanoma treatments, these promising findings provide hope for patients suffering from melanoma. The authors of the study advocate that the enzyme will serve as a vital therapeutic target, given that they assume minimal side effects from the potential treatment.

By Melissa Pillote

References

Oleniacz, L. (2015 May 1). UNC Lineberger study finds new potential melanoma drug target.Retrieved from http://news.unchealthcare.org/news/2015/may/unc-lineberger-study-finds-new-potential-melanoma-drug-target

Carson, C.C., Moshos, S.J., Edmiston, S.N., Darr, D.B., Nikolaishvili-Feinberg, N., Groben, P.A., Zhou, X., Kuan, P.F., Pandey, S., Chan, K.T., Jordan, J.L., Hao, H., Frank, J.S., Hopkinson, D.A., Gibbs, D.C., Alldredge, V.D., Parrish, E., Hanna, S.C., Berkowitz, P., Rubenstein, D.S., Miller, C.R., Bear, J.E., Ollila, D.W., Sharpless, N.E., Conway, K., Thomas, N.E. (2015). IL2 Inducible T-cell Kinsase, a Novel Therapeutic Target in Melanoma. Clinical Cancer Research,21, pp. 2167. Retrieved from https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/21/9/2167.abstract

Melanoma. Retrieved from http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 4, 2015
Last updated: May 4, 2015