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Skin Cancer Breakthrough: New Drug May Reduce Skin Cancer Spread By 90 Percent

Update Date: Jan 06, 2017 11:46 AM EST
Skin Cancer Melanoma
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Now, scientists have discovered a compound that could prevent the spread of melanoma cells. (Photo : American Cancer Society/Getty Images)

A team of scientists has developed a new compound that may reduce the spread of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 90 percent. This breakthrough skin cancer discovery could pave way for the development of drugs and therapies intended to control the spread of skin cancer cells.

Scientists at the Michigan State University have found that the man-made, small molecule drug compound they discovered stops a gene's ability to cause cancer to spread. It has the potential to halt this gene activity also dubbed as transcription.

"It's been a challenge developing small-molecule drugs that can block this gene activity that works as a signaling mechanism known to be important in melanoma progression," Richard Neubig, a pharmacology professor and co-author of the study, said in a press release by the Michigan State University.

The Breakthrough Compound

In the study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, the compound the scientists have been studying, CCG-203971, is the same one they've been experimenting on to treat scleroderma.

"Our chemical compound is actually the same one that we've been working on to potentially treat the disease scleroderma, which now we've found works effectively on this type of cancer," Neubig said.

Scleroderma is a potentially-fatal autoimmune disease that leads to hardening of sin tissue. In severe cases, it may harden the tissue of important organs such as the lungs, heart and kidneys. The same mechanism that produces skin thickening in this condition also contributes to the spread of cancer.

The researchers injected immuno-compromised mice with human melanoma cells. They then exposed the mice to the compound, which will target the gene's ability to produce RNA molecules and certain proteins found in melanoma tumors. The genes, which can cause cancer to spread, were prevented by the compound.

What Is Melanoma?

According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, begins in melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the pigment melanin that colors the skin, eyes and hair. Since melanocytes form moles, having one might increase the risk of melanoma.

Many studies have shown that about 90 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from both natural, like sunlight, and artificial sources, such as tanning beds.

The American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Though melanoma accounts for just 1 percent of all skin cancers, it's the deadliest. In 2016, an estimated 76,380 new melanoma cases will be diagnosed in the United States and more than 10,000 are expected to die from the aggressive type of cancer.

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