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Drug Could Make Melanoma More Vulnerable to Chemo

Compound disabled protein fueling tumor growth, making therapy more effective

FRIDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- A compound that targets and disables a protein found in melanoma tumors may make the deadly skin cancer more vulnerable to chemotherapy, early results of a pilot study show.

Sixteen patients with advanced melanoma on an extremity (feet, hands, etc.) were given the compound ADH-1 intravenously and then underwent chemotherapy by infusion in the affected limb. The melanoma was eradicated in half the patients.

The findings were expected to be presented Friday at the Society of Surgical Oncology annual meeting in Phoenix, and have been accepted for publication in the journal Cancer. The study was funded by Adherex Technologies, which is developing ADH-1.

"These early results are very exciting, because metastatic melanoma is one of the most deadly cancers and one which is typically very unresponsive to therapy," lead author Dr. Georgina Beasley, a surgical resident at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a university news release. "The next step will be to continue testing the efficacy of this treatment in more patients, here and at other centers."

A Phase II trial involving 46 patients has recently completed recruiting participants.

The incidence of melanoma is increasing at a rate faster than any other cancer, and 60,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to background information in the news release.

Melanoma often develops on extremities, and up to 10 percent of patients with extremity melanoma develop multiple recurrences that can't be treated with surgery alone. Melanoma that spreads beyond the primary site is rarely curable, and there are limited treatment options.

More information

The American Academy of Dermatology has more about melanoma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Duke Medicine, news release, March 6, 2009

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