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Scientists from the French research organization INSERM (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médical) have announced the results of a trial that shows serious promise for the treatment of melanoma. According to a statement from the organization, a team of researchers led by Stéphane Rocchi has developed a series of new drugs that could significantly reduce the viability of melanoma cells without harming normal cells.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Cell, reveals a new method for treating melanoma that attacks cancerous in the final metastatic phase. Researchers explained that personalized treatments are often required during this phase when the cancer is keen to spread to surrounding tissues.
The team identified a new family of drugs called Thiazole Benzensulfonamides, or TZB, that were useful in treating cancerous cells. According to lead author Rocchi, “Initially this family of drugs was identified in type 2 diabetes, as it increased the sensitivity of cells to insulin. If we wanted to use it against cancer, we had to be able to eliminate this proinsulin activity. Thus we started to modify its structure.”
The scientists finally synthesized a compound called HA15 that successfully retained the beneficial properties of the diabetes medication without increasing insulin levels. They found that the drug reduced the viability of melanoma cells without damaging normal cells in the body. The drug, the study explains, stresses the cells’ endoplasmic reticula, killing them through the processes of apoptosis and autophagy.
In trials carried out on mice, the drug was shown to be effective at reducing tumor volume. In human trials, the scientists confirmed that the medication was actively working on melanoma cells in patients who rejected or resisted other targeted therapies.
Researchers believe that HA15 could also be effective for breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers, as well as gliomas and chronic myeloid leukemia. Rocchi says he hopes to begin a phase I clinical trial in the near future.