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How a Flower May Stop Melanoma

flower fights melanoma

Melanoma may be the least common form of skin cancer, but it also is the most deadly. Now scientists have discovered how a trumpet-like flower may hold the secret to stopping the disease.

Could a flower help fight skin cancer?

At Texas Biomedical Research Institute, a team of researchers has announced they have discovered how a substance called gossypin, which has been isolated from the hibiscus plant (H. vitifolius), may fight a deadly form of skin cancer. While previous research showed gossypin has an ability to suppress inflammation, angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels, which nourish cancer), and cancer, until now scientists did not understand how this flavone (a type of plant chemical) worked.

The new research, which was conducted in cell cultures and mice, revealed that gossypin inhibits the activity of two gene mutations that are seen in the “vast majority of melanoma patients,” according to Hareesh Nair, who headed the new study. This is the first time scientists have identified how gossypin works and how it could be a treatment for melanoma.

Specifically, the researchers found that gossypin stopped the growth of melanoma cell lines that contains the two gene mutations and also stopped the growth of a number of human melanoma cells. In addition, gossypin reduced the volume of skin cancer tumors and extended the lifespans of mice given human melanoma tumors that had the mutated genes.

More about melanoma
The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 76,690 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States in 2013, and that 9,480 individuals will die of the disease. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that starts in pigment cells called melanocytes.

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Although melanoma can develop on any skin surface, it’s more common on the head, neck, or between the shoulders and hips of men, while women are more likely to develop the disease on the lower legs or between the shoulders and hips.

The greatest risk factors for melanoma are exposure to sunlight and use of artificial ultraviolet radiation sources, such as tanning beds and sunlamps. Individuals with fair skin are more likely to develop melanoma, and the disease also sometimes runs in families.

Melanoma Treatment Today

Current treatment options for melanoma include surgery (removal of the skin cancer), radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy (interferon, tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-2), and targeted therapy in which drugs and other substances are used to attack specific cancer cells. This approach includes angiogenesis inhibitors, monoclonal antibody therapy, and oncolytic virus therapy.

Nair and his colleagues plan to conduct further studies of gossypin and its potential role in skin cancer. He noted that their new findings “open a new avenue for the generation of a novel class of compounds for the treatment of melanoma.”

Bhaskaran S et al. Gossypin as a novel selective dual inhibitor of v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1 and cyclin-dependent kinase 4 for melanoma. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2013 Apr; 12:361-72
Kunnumakkaa AB et al. Gossypin, a pentahydroxy glucosyl flavone, inhibits the transforming growth factor beta-activated kinase-1-mediated NF-kappaB activation pathway, leading to potentiation of apoptosis, suppression of invasion, and abrogation of osteoclastogenesis. Blood 2007 Jun 15; 109(12): 5112-21
National Cancer Institute
Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Image: Morguefile