March 28, 2011

Arthritis Drug Could Help Beat Skin Cancer

(Ivanhoe Newswire--) There could soon new treatment for one of the most deadly forms of cancer, thanks to a study from the University of East Anglia and Children's Hospital Boston.

Melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, affects the pigment cells in skin. More than 10,000 patients every year are diagnosed with melanoma in the United Kingdom, and unlike other cancers, the number of people diagnosed every year is on the rise. Melanoma is treatable when caught early, but if it is caught too late and tumors have spread, chances of survival are extremely low.

However, University of East Anglia scientists may have found an existing drug that has inhibiting effects on melanoma. Scientists tested thousands of compounds and their effect on the pigment development cells in tadpoles. Along with the Children's Hospital in Boston, they proved that leflunomide, a drug typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, restricts tumor growth in mice. Even more promising was the fact that when used in tandem with a new melanoma therapy that is currently in clinical trials, PLX4720, leflunomide blocked nearly all tumor growth.

Dr. Grant Wheeler, of University of East Anglia's School of Biological Science, was quoted as saying, "This is a really exciting discovery"¦ making use of an existing drug specifically to target melanoma... Deaths from melanoma skin cancer are increasing and there is a desperate need for new, more effective treatments. We are very optimistic that this research will lead to novel treatments for melanoma tumors which, working alongside other therapies, will help to stop them progressing."

The next step for leflunomide is clinical trials for its use as a melanoma treatment, a process that should be faster than usual since leflunomide is already an approved drug for arthritis. There could be a new treatment for melanoma within five years.

SOURCE: Nature, published March 24, 2011