Combination Therapy Packs One-Two Punch Against Melanoma

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2008-06-09 11:20

Disabling a protein frequently found in melanoma tumors may make the cancer more vulnerable to chemotherapy, according to a pilot study led by researchers in the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"We tested a compound that can weaken the tumor by targeting a protein found on the surface of a melanoma cell," said Douglas Tyler, M.D., a surgeon at Duke and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and senior investigator on this study. "When chemotherapy was applied to the tumor in this weakened state it was much more effective compared to conventional therapy alone."

The researchers will present their findings June 1 in a poster discussion session at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. The study was funded by Adherex Technologies, the company developing the compound that was tested in combination with chemotherapy.

Sixteen patients received the therapy as part of this study. All had been diagnosed with regionally advanced, in-transit melanoma, characterized by cancerous growths that appear and spread mainly on the limbs. This type of melanoma is often treated with regional chemotherapy, where veins and arteries are accessed in the affected area and large doses of chemotherapy are pumped directly into the body. The patients on this study received a drug known as ADH-1 both before and after chemotherapy; ADH-1 makes it difficult for cells to properly bind to one another.

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