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New Compound Shrinks Skin Cancers
Date:9/2/2009

al and a professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School and Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor. "The reason we're so excited is that there are now a large number of cancers that have also been linked to abnormalities in this pathway, including pancreatic, colon, ovarian and prostate. It's quite an impressive list. The data is pretty strong suggesting that if you shut down the pathway, it can have a pretty profound effect on those tumor cells. If it can work in these cancers, maybe it can work in other cancers, even though the signaling there is more complex."

But another researcher warned that it is premature to get too excited about the results.

"It's great to see something with so much potential, but it really is potential," said Dr. Clifford Perlis, director of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Dermatologic Surgery at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

However, he added, "there are other companies developing Hedgehog inhibitors as well, so I think people should be paying attention to this."

The Hedgehog gene, so named because it was first discovered in flies with hair resembling the spikes of hedgehogs, "is really important during early embryonic development in pretty much all animal species from flies to mice to humans, and for pretty much every tissue you can imagine," explained Frederic de Sauvage, also an author on both papers. "But remarkably in adults, it seems to be mostly turned off."

De Sauvage is vice president of research, molecular biology, at Genentech, which developed the molecule and funded the study.

Some 1 million Americans get basal cell carcinoma each year. It often doesn't spread but, once it has, there are no approved treatments. Medulloblastoma is an aggressive form of brain tumor.

The first trial enrolled 33 individuals whose basal cell carcinoma had spread locally or to distant organs.

Half of the participants wh
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