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Diptheria Toxin And Interleukin2 Help Killing Melanoma Tumour Cells

Researchers have found a drug containing parts of diptheria toxin as a way to prompt the immune system for recognizing and killing tumour //cell of patients suffering from advanced melanoma (Skin Cancer)

In the first part of a phase II clinical trial to test the drug denileukin diftitox (also known as DAB (389) IL2 or ONTAK) in melanoma, five out of seven patients with stage IV disease experienced significant regression or stabilisation of both tumours and metastases. The two other patients in whom the disease progressed were on a lower dose of the drug. All the patients are still alive after 12 months.

Dr Jason Chesney, associate director for translational research at the JG Brown Cancer Center, University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA, told a news briefing at the EORTC-NCI-AACR [1] Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Prague today (Thursday 9 November): 'We are seeing some exciting results in stage IV melanoma patients whose median life expectancy is normally only about eight months. The phase II trial is continuing to examine the efficacy of denileukin diftitox in patients with melanoma.'

The immune system that attacks cancer cells in humans depends on a balance between T cells, which specifically recognise and attack antigens such as tumour cells, and suppressive or regulatory T cells (Tregs), which turn off activated immune cells in order to prevent autoimmunity.

Dr Chesney explained: 'Recently a subset of regulatory T cells has been found to directly suppress the activation of the anti-tumour T cells, but it was also discovered that, if the Tregs were depleted by targeting them with denileukin diftitox, then particular T cells in the immune system known as CD8+ T lymphocytes were able to attack and kill the melanoma cells in mice.'

Denileukin diftitox is a fusion protein made up of amino acid sequences for the diptheria toxin and the T cell growth factor, interleukin 2 (IL2). It targets Tre
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