MAR 28, 2019 8:00 PM PDT

A Rare and Potent Sea Fighter: An End to Melanoma Cells?

WRITTEN BY: Nupur Srivastava

Melanoma is cancer that usually starts in a particular type of skin cell as melanocytes. It can be more severe than other forms of skin cancer because of a tendency to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize) and cause extreme illness and death. The rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 50 years in the United States. This year, melanoma will affect 96,480 people and kill 7,230 in the United States, according to the latest estimates. As melanoma spreads fast and migrates to other locations in the body, its prognosis is hard, and scientists are looking for effective ways to treat melanoma. New therapeutic inhibitors “BRAF” mutations are effective drugs for melanoma treatment. However, almost half of the patients did not respond to the remedy and the remaining patients developed resistance to the drugs in a few months, rendering the treatment ineffective.

While trying to explore alternative ways for the prevention of the melanoma, the researchers discovered a natural product, seriniquinone, isolated from a rare marine bacterium of the genus, Serinicoccus, to be dominant and selective against melanoma cells. The investigators from the University of California in San Diego, Universidade Federal de São Paulo and Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil published their work in ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters. William Fenical, James J. La Clair, and Leticia Costa-Lotufo were the leaders of the research team. In one of the publications in the year 2014, their studies determine that seriniquinone aids in destroying the melanoma cells in the laboratory by targeting and inducing cell death of dermcidin, a protein highly expressed in melanoma cells.

With the discovery of these molecules, the scientists tried modifying the structure of the particles to make it water-soluble and more accessible to purify. Without changing the anti-cancer property of seriniquinone, researchers were successful in making it more useful for a person with the disease, rather than being limited to the test tubes. The authors wrote, “The translation of seriniquinone into a chemotherapeutic agent is complex. It requires significant medicinal chemistry efforts to generate a large number of derivatives to improve its ‘drug-like’ properties.” They say, “Overall, these studies suggest that it is feasible to design melanoma-specific seriniquinone derivatives with drug-like properties.”

The research team is closer to designing and marketing the right drug as they are developing ways to optimize the action of these seriniquinone derivatives for more targeted therapy of melanoma.

Sources: ACS Newsletter, EurekAlert!, PNAS, Oncotarget, ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letter

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