Treating it at the Source

Melanoma may be treated by blocking the GPR56 molecule

(RxWiki News) While the incidence of many cancers has been declining in recent years, the same can't be said for melanoma. The disease is rising dramatically among young people. Now, scientists may have a way to nip this cancer at its source.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have uncovered the proteins that are at the heart of melanoma. A receptor called GPR56 is believed to be involved in the development and spread of the deadliest form of skin cancer. Investigators believe that therapies could be developed to target and block this protein before the disease progresses.

"Scientists may soon be able to block the source of melanoma growth."

If caught early, melanoma has a cure rate of 99 percent. If not detected until more advanced stages, this cancer evades most therapies, including today's most effective drugs known as VEGF inhibitors.

This is a tricky cancer. Even when controlled for a period of time, melanoma can return in an even more aggressive form.

As part of their study, researchers looked at VEGF - vascular endothelial growth factor - which helps to build a network of blood vessels to feed the tumor. In recent years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several drugs called VEGF inhibitors that keep the protein from helping cancer cells to grow.

While these medications are effective, some of VEGF escapes, making room for the melanoma to return.

The research, led by Lei Xu, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, found that the receptor GPR56 regulates VEGF. He and his team concluded that drugs targeting GPR56 may stop and shut down VEGF production at its source.

And while there are no current therapies targeting this molecule, Xu hopes this study will spur developers' interest.

Additional research is needed to confirm these laboratory findings.

This study was published in the journal Cancer Research.

Melanoma is currently the most common form of cancer in young adults 25 to 29 and the second most common cancer among in teens and people in their early 20s. If caught in progressed stages, the melanoma survival rate is only about 15 percent.

Review Date: 
July 21, 2011