Finding less toxic drug combinations - key - like Allovectin and yervoy?
Dr Wellbrock says: "Much of cancer research is now focussed on finding new drug combinations. It's recognised that cancers frequently find new ways to combat even the most novel and highly efficient drug treatments, so we are now focussing on targeting the mechanisms that allow the cancer cells to overcome the drug effects. We're very excited about the potential for this new approach that has proved to be so effective in our experiments."
One of the drawbacks of the MEK inhibitor drug is that it targets all cells. MEK (MAP/ERK kinase protein) is present in all cells but cancer cells have overactive MEK. This means the drug must be used in small doses and for a lengthy period to avoid harming healthy cells. By reducing SMURF2 to increase the drug's effectiveness smaller doses could be given over a shorter time period, reducing the level of toxicity in healthy cells.
Dr Wellbrock says: "If we can reduce the toxicity to all cells it will mean cancer treatments are less harmful to patients. It's vital that we improve the treatments for melanoma which is the fifth most common cancer in the UK. By the time many people are diagnosed with melanoma the cancer has already started to spread and advanced tumours can be highly resistant to conventional cancer treatments. The development of resistance to new drugs has also been a major drawback. If we can identify more potent and less toxic drug combinations to tackle melanoma then we could save thousands of lives."