A drug commonly used to treat seizures appears to make eye tumors less likely to grow if they spread to other parts of the body, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Their findings are available online in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
Uveal melanoma, the second most common form of melanoma, can be very aggressive and spread, or metastasize, from the eye to other organs, especially the liver.
"Melanoma in general, and uveal melanoma in particular, is notoriously difficult to treat once it has metastasized and grown in a distant organ," says principal investigator J. William Harbour, MD. "We previously identified an aggressive class 2 molecular type of uveal melanoma that, in most cases, already has metastasized by the time the eye cancer is diagnosed, even though imaging the body can't detect it yet. This microscopic amount of cancer can remain dormant in the liver and elsewhere for several years before it begins to grow and becomes lethal."
Once this happens, the prospects for survival are poor, according to Harbour, the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and professor of cell biology and of molecular oncology. He also directs the Center for Ocular Oncology at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
Harbour's new study shows that drugs known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors alter the conformation of the DNA of the aggressive form of uveal melanoma, which changes the way key genes are expressed, rendering the tumor cells less aggressive.
"We looked at uveal melanoma cells in the laboratory and in an animal model, and we found that HDAC inhibitors can block the growth and proliferation of tumor cells," he says. "HDAC inhibitors appear to reverse the aggressive molecular signature that we had identified several years ago as a marker for metastatic
|Contact: Caroline Arbanas|
Washington University School of Medicine