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UT Southwestern researchers launch study into search-and-destroy antigen for deadly skin cancer
Date:8/10/2009

DALLAS Aug. 10, 2009 UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers are studying a new antigen to see whether it can track down and kill cancer cells in patients with recurring melanoma, the leading cause of skin cancer deaths.

Researchers are testing a tumor-specific protein called recombinant human melanoma antigen A3 (MAGE-A3) that researchers hope will interact with the body's immune system and generate a search-and-destroy program targeting deadly melanoma cells.

"We inject this antigen into the person and hopefully their immune system will respond to the protein, creating antibodies and cells that will kill the tumor cells. Then, they go through the body to kill cancer cells wherever they reside," explained Dr. James Huth, professor of surgery at UT Southwestern. "It's an old concept, but now we're keying on a specific antigen."

Researchers have been looking for proteins found exclusively in melanoma cells and not in normal human cells so that they can then direct the immune system to generate antibodies that kill only cells containing that specific protein. Earlier studies flagged the MAGE-A3 protein, which resides on the top of certain cancerous cells but is not expressed in normal cells, as a possible target for treating melanoma as well as certain lung, head-and-neck and bladder cancers.

UT Southwestern is one of about 50 sites nationally that will participate in the trial and is actively recruiting patients who have melanoma that has also affected lymph nodes. Participants will be tracked over a five-year period after receiving a series of injections.

"We'd be interested in talking to anyone who has melanoma that has spread to their lymph nodes," Dr. Huth said. "MAGE-A3 had some responses in some melanoma patients in phase 1 and phase 2 studies, and so now we want to see in this phase 3 if something happens in a larger population."

One in every three cancers diagnosed in the U.S. is a skin cancer an
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Contact: Russell Rian
russell.rian@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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