New York, Jan 5 (IANS) Scientists have developed a new drug compound that has the potential to stop the spread of melanoma -- the most deadly form of skin cancer -- by up to 90 per cent.
About 10,000 people are estimated to die each year from melanoma, which spreads throughout the body quickly and attacks distant organs such as the brain and lungs.
"The majority of people die from melanoma because of the disease spreading. Our compound can block cancer migration and potentially increase patient survival," said Richard Neubig, Professor at the Michigan State University.
The study showed that the compound reduced the migration of melanoma cells by 85-90 per cent.
The new drug also reduced tumours, specifically in the lungs of mice that had been injected with human melanoma cells, the researchers said.
The findings are an early discovery that could be highly effective in battling the deadly skin cancer, added Kate Appleton, a postdoctoral student at Michigan State University.
The man-made small-molecule drug compound goes after a gene's ability to produce RNA molecules and certain proteins in melanoma tumours.
This gene activity, or transcription process, causes the disease to spread but the compound can shut it down.Until now, few other compounds of this kind have been able to accomplish this, the researchers stated.
The compounds were able to stop proteins, known as Myocardin-related transcription factors, or MRTFs, from initiating the gene transcription process in melanoma cells.
These triggering proteins are initially turned on by another protein called RhoC, or Ras homology C, which is found in a signalling pathway that can cause the disease to spread in the body aggressively.
"The effect of our compounds on turning off this melanoma cell growth and progression is much stronger when the pathway is activated. We could look for the activation of the MRTF proteins as a biomarker to determine risk, especially for those in early-stage melanoma," Appleton said, in the paper published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.