New drugs provide hope for incurable skin cancer

A new type of medication could provide hope for otherwise incurable skin cancers.

It’s the result of a breakthrough study from The Institute of Cancer Research in London and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK, and is now published in the journal Cancer Cell.

Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, affecting around 13,000 people a year. Until now, the only available medication blocked mutations of the BRAF protein, which causes the majority of cases. However, this isn’t effective for cancers not caused by this protein, and even when it does work, the cancer usually becomes treatment-resistant after a year.

So scientists needed to develop treatment options that would help more people, for longer. After extensive research, they’ve now created a new family of drugs, panRAF inhibitors, which work for patients whose bodies have become resistant to BRAF inhibitors as well as in cases where traditional treatment wasn’t helpful. That’s because these new drugs go further – not only blocking the BRAF protein but the growth pathways that allow cells to develop resistance to it. With nowhere to run, resistance is futile/impossible.

What’s more, there were no significant side effects and the medication can easily be taken as a pill. The researchers now plan to test their new drugs (provisionally called CCT196969 and CCT241161 – catchy, huh?), perhaps as soon as next year.

Professor Caroline Springer, Professor of Biological Chemistry at The Institute of Cancer Research, who co-lead the study, said: We are very hopeful that clinical trials from this series of new inhibitors will begin very soon – and that they will ultimately become new first or second-line options for patients who, at the moment, exhaust all the available treatments and end up with fatal disease.’

Image via Yale Rosen’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley