If you are suffering from skin cancer right now and it isn’t responding any type of medication, don’t lose hope just yet. There’s a new drug under lab testing that may just be the one you are looking for.
The new drug is known as panRAF inhibitor, which may also be effective against cancer types that remain untreatable with any drug available right now.
About 2,000 people die from melanoma, a lethal skin cancer, in the UK every year from the 13,000 or so who are affected by it.
There’s also a higher death rate in the US every year. According to the American Cancer Society, about 9,710 people died from it last year.
Surgery is not an option anymore when the cancer is already in its advanced stage. A suppressant is used instead to counter the effect of a protein called BRAF which has gone defective. This is the cause of half of melanoma incidents.
The effectiveness of BRAF inhibitors don’t last long. While being effective at stopping cancer cells in the beginning, the cancer cells develop a resistance to it within a year. However, since the newly developed cancer cell drugs have a wider mode of action, they have been observed to be effective at stopping the resistant tumors from growing further.
In another development, the new drug has also been discovered to work against 20 percent to 25 percent of another cancer caused by another defective protein called RAS.
Professor Caroline Springer, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who co-led a study, said: ‘Melanomas often respond initially to the current generation of treatments, but they inevitably acquire resistance to them, and there is a desperate need for more effective options.
‘Our new inhibitors are the first in a new family of drugs that attack cancers without allowing them the get-out clause of drug resistance, by blocking multiple cancer proteins at once.
‘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.’
Her colleague, Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, based at the University of Manchester, added: ‘Our laboratory study showed that these new drugs deliver multiple blows to cancer by hitting several cell survival routes at once.
‘It’s a step on from the drugs that are currently available which can’t multitask in this way.
‘The next step is testing this family of drugs in clinical trials to establish that they are both safe and effective in cancer patients, potentially providing urgently-needed new treatments for patients who have run out of options.’
The testing period will be possibly limited in scope, only involving a few patients. The main goal will be to determine how safe it is and the proper dosage to use. There’s an expectation, however, that some records about the drug’s effectiveness could be gleaned from it.
In the event that testing yields positive results, additional testing will be done with a focus on how the drug will deliver. Few data are in the offing at present and there’s still the business of determining how many volunteers are needed. There’s no more problem with the financial aspect of the testing, and the ethical approval has been granted.
She added: ‘We’re all very excited and very hopeful, because it’s very important to have different therapies to offer patients who have become resistant to existing treatments.’
Only one type of drug will be used. It was chosen from hundreds of others using stringent testing conditions. Two drugs were screened in the laboratory code-named CCT 196969 and CCT 241161.
The two drugs were effective at stopping drug-resistant tumors in mice without any accompanying serious side-effects.
Dr Richard Seabrook, of Wellcome Trust, which co-funded the research together with Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with more than 13,000 people diagnosed in 2011.
‘Doctors already have front line drugs to treat melanoma, but many patients gradually develop resistance to them and are left with few other treatment options.”
‘This research, which discovered how two newly developed compounds could treat drug-resistant skin cancer, may give hope to the thousands who find themselves in this situation.’
You can the research study in the journal Cancer Cell where it was published.