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Melanoma Spread May Be Averted with Repurposed Leukemia Drugs

Source: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, March 2018

At the University of Kentucky, scientists have identified a molecular mechanism behind the spread of melanoma. Better, the scientists say that interfering with the mechanism could prevent nonmetastatic melanoma from becoming highly aggressive metastatic melanoma. Better still, the scientists point out that the mechanism could be inhibited by drugs that already exist. These drugs, which are called Abl and Arg inhibitors, have been used for decades against leukemia, and they have the added benefit of causing few side effects.
In the context of melanoma, Abl and Arg inhibitors would be useful because they would hinder the synthesis of cathepsins, enzymes that degrade proteins and are highly expressed in cancer cells. Cathepsins “chew up” the fibrous matrix around tumors, which allows bits of the tumors to get into the bloodstream and lymphatic system, facilitating melanoma invasion of distant organ sites, such as the lung, liver, brain, and bone.
A recent study conducted by the University of Kentucky scientists showed that Abl and Arg can raise cathepsin levels by increasing the activity of transcription factors, which bind to the regulatory part of genes and induce their expression. The transcription factors prompted by Abl and Arg happen to upregulate numerous proteins in involved in metastasis.
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