Preclinical Study Shows Two Drugs Kill Resistant Melanoma

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Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center researches have found that combining a well-known biological agent with a new targeted anticancer drug can trigger the death of melanoma cells that are resistant to therapy. This was found in an animal and laboratory study. These findings were recently published in the journal Cancer Research. A phase I clinical trial is in progress to test the safety of the drug combination in humans.

This is promising news as melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Melanoma is expected to have stricken 62,500 Americans in 2008 and to have caused 8,400 deaths. The disease is highly curable when caught and treated early. Only 10 to 15 percent of patients with advanced melanoma live more than five years. It's the advanced melanoma that is highly resistant to most chemotherapy drugs.

The two drugs used are interferon-alpha (IFNa) and bortezomib. This is the first time the two drugs had been used together for treating melanoma. IFNa, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of melanoma, increases the sensitivity of melanoma cells to self-destruction. Bortezomib inhibits the action of proteosomes, complexes in cells that break down proteins.

The research shows that the combination causes melanoma cells to self-destruct by a biochemical process called apoptosis. The drug combination significantly increased survival in a mouse-tumor model. The combination was also noted to cut the growth of transplanted human tumors by half in a second model. Even melanoma cells with high levels of two important survival proteins, Bcl-2 and Mcl-1, that block the process of cell self-destruction were killed by the drug combination.

The ABCDs of Melanoma

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The simple ABCD approach is a useful guide to help you identify moles you should show your doctor. If you have a lesion with any of these signs, please, have them check early.

Spot Melanoma

A = Asymmetry: Melanoma lesions are typically irregular in shape (asymmetrical); benign (noncancerous) moles are typically round (symmetrical).

B = Border: Melanoma lesions often have irregular borders (i.e., ragged or notched edges); benign moles have smooth, even borders.

C = Colors: Melanoma lesions often contain many shades of brown or black; benign moles are usually a single shade of brown.

D = Diameter: Melanoma lesions are often more than 1/4 inch or six millimeters in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser); benign moles are usually less than 1/4 inch or six millimeters in diameter.

Sources: Ohio State University Medical Center

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