New target plus new drug equals death of melanoma cells

April 9, 2013

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.

Explore further: Discovery of Mer protein in leukemia cells' nuclei may be new, druggable target

Related Stories

Discovery of Mer protein in leukemia cells' nuclei may be new, druggable target

March 13, 2012
Since the mid-1990s, doctors have had the protein Mer in their sights – it coats the outside of cancer cells, transmitting signals inside the cells that aid their uncontrolled growth.

Therapies for ALL and AML targeting MER receptor hold promise of more effect with less side-effect

March 11, 2013
Two University of Colorado Cancer Center studies show that the protein receptor Mer is overexpressed in many leukemias, and that inhibition of this Mer receptor results in the death of leukemia cells – without affecting ...

New drug, Vemurafenib, doubles survival of metastatic melanoma patients

March 1, 2012
A report published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the 50 percent of metastatic melanoma patients with a specific genetic mutation benefit from the drug Vemurafenib – increasing median survival ...

Study identifies human melanoma stem cells

August 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 role in relapse. ...

Serendipity points to new potential target and therapy for melanoma

December 20, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A University of Colorado Cancer Center study in this month's edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology describes a new target and potential treatment for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 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.