New target plus new drug equals death of melanoma cells

Collaborative research presented by the University of Colorado Cancer Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard Medical School and the University of Pittsburgh, at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Conference, shows that the protein receptor Mer is overexpressed in melanoma and that the investigational drug UNC1062 blocks Mer survival signaling in these cells, killing them.

"It's exciting in that Mer correlates so perfectly with disease progression. It's tiered – you see a bump in expression as you transition from nevus to melanoma and then again as you transition from melanoma to metastatic disease," says Doug Graham, MD, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and associate professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the paper's senior author.

After proving this correlation between Mer receptor expression and disease stage in melanoma tissues from clinical patient samples, Graham and colleagues wondered what would happen if they interrupted this Mer signaling. Luckily, the University of North Carolina had recently developed a new compound that did just that – UNC1062. The results were dramatic.

"We showed decreased survival signaling, increased apoptosis and decreased growth of the in dishes and in mouse models," Graham says. It seems that Mer receptors are not only correlated with melanoma progression but are in fact driving the aggressiveness of the disease.

"This is the first time there's been an association between Mer and melanoma and the first time to report about this new drug," Graham says.

Related Stories

Study identifies human melanoma stem cells

date Aug 23, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Cancer stem cells are defined by three abilities: differentiation, self-renewal and their ability to seed a tumor. These stem cells resist chemotherapy and many researchers posit their ...

Recommended for you

DNA blood test detects lung cancer mutations

date 12 hours ago

Cancer DNA circulating in the bloodstream of lung cancer patients can provide doctors with vital mutation information that can help optimise treatment when tumour tissue is not available, an international group of researchers ...

Tumors prefer the easy way out

date 15 hours ago

Tumor cells become lethal when they spread. Blocking this process can be a powerful way to stop cancer. Historically, scientists thought that tumor cells migrated by brute force, actively pushing through whatever ...

Brain tumors may be new targets of Ebola-like virus

date 15 hours ago

Brain tumors are notoriously difficult for most drugs to reach, but Yale researchers have found a promising but unlikely new ally against brain cancers—portions of a deadly virus similar to Ebola.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.