MAR 12, 2021 6:17 AM PST

Drug Starves Melanoma Tumors

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have identified a drug candidate that blocks the uptake of glutamine, a key food source for many tumors, and slows the growth of melanoma.

Researchers identify a suitable drug candidate that can be a promising approach for melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer that takes the live of 7,000 people annually in the United States according to statistics reported by the American Cancer Society.

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"While great strides have been made recently in the treatment of melanoma, many patients' tumors become resistant to therapy, and this has become a major obstacle in the successful treatment of the disease," says Ze'ev Ronai, Ph.D., director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center at Sanford Burnham Prebys and senior author of the study. "This study describes a promising compound that selectively targets the uptake of glutamine, an amino acid nutrient that tumors rely on for survival. We are hopeful this drug will fill an unmet medical need for people living with this deadly cancer."

The drug targets glutamine transporter, SLC1A5, which hinders glutamine uptake. Glutamine is one of the essential nutrients for cancer cells. By inhibiting glutamine from gaining entry into the cancer cells, then we are offering a therapeutic approach to targeting melanoma.

"This is a very important study because many targeted drugs for melanoma treatment have been significantly hindered by the rapid development of treatment resistance, sometimes as quickly as within several months. While immunotherapy approaches are promising, they are only effective in a subset of patients, and treatment resistance can also develop in this setting as well," says M. Celeste Simon, Ph.D., Arthur H. Rubenstein, MBBCh Professor in the department of Cell and Developmental Biology and scientific director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "The drug candidate identified in Dr. Ronai's study offers an exciting new therapeutic approach for treating tumors addicted to glutamine, which includes a long list of human cancers, and will hopefully lengthen the amount of time that people with melanoma respond to available treatments."

Findings were published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, and discusses how the drug candidate, IMD-0354, works to inhibit tumor growth in both cell culture and in mouse models of melanoma.

"Our study shows that targeting SLC1A5, which stops glutamine from ever entering the cell in the first place, is an effective way to slow cancer cell growth," says Yongmei Feng, Ph.D., staff scientist in the Ronai lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys and first author of the study. "Because many tumor types are dependent upon glutamine for survival, this drug may be able to treat many different types of cancers."

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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