Marine Bacteria Offer New Weapon Against Melanoma

Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. Melanoma accounts for just 1 percent of skin cancer cases.

However, melanoma causes the majority of skin cancer deaths, primarily because once it metastasizes, there are limited treatment options.

According to estimates, doctors will diagnose 96,480 new cases of melanoma in the United States this year, and there will be 7,230 related deaths.

Melanoma occurs most often in older adults, but it is also one of the most common cancers in younger people.

Over the last 50 years, melanoma rates have risen at a worryingly rapid pace. Although increased levels of screening account for some of this change, they do not tell the whole story.

As mortality rates are relatively high for melanoma, and the number of cases is increasing, finding a new way of attacking this type of cancer is urgent.

New avenues to explore

Relatively recently, a class of drugs called BRAF inhibitors has shown promise for the treatment of melanoma. However, close to 50 percent of people do not respond to these drugs, and those who do tend to become resistant within months, making the treatment ineffective.

In the laboratory, seriniquinone selectively destroyed melanoma cells by inducing cell death. It achieved this by targeting a cancer-protective protein called dermcidin. This study was the first to identify a small molecule that could directly attack malignant cells.

“The translation of [seriniquinone] into a chemotherapeutic agent is complex. It requires significant medicinal chemistry efforts to generate a large number of derivatives to improve its ‘drug-like’ properties.”

Closer to a new drug

The researchers’ recent work brings them closer to designing a usable drug. Specifically, they managed to identify the parts of the seriniquinone molecule that furnish it with its anticancer activity.

Next, they altered other parts of the molecule to make it water-soluble and easier to purify. Both of these properties are essential to make seriniquinone a functional drug.

“Overall, these studies suggest that it is feasible to design melanoma-specific seriniquinone derivatives with drug-like properties.”

They hope that, eventually, they can bring a powerful melanoma drug to market. Although there is much work ahead, identifying a new potential way of attacking melanoma is a significant breakthrough.

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