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Finding holds promise for inhibition of metastasis with targeted, synthetic peptides An international team of scientists has identified an important molecular link involved in the spread – or metastasis – of melanoma to other organs such as the lungs.
By introducing a synthetic peptide that mimics one component of this link, the researchers blocked this cellular interaction, significantly deterring the migration of cancer cells beyond the original tumor site.
Blocking this protein linkage also was shown to inhibit angiogenesis--the creation of blood vessels that nourish new, secondary tumors--and spur cell death or apoptosis.
The results, published in the July issue of the journal Cancer Research, open the door to the prospect of targeted therapeutics capable of preventing or limiting the metastasis of skin cancer.
"The ability of these synthetic peptides to reduce tumor cell metastasis and angiogenesis and increase apoptosis may be important in the development of therapeutics for malignancy," said Hynda Kleinman, Ph.D., chief, cell biology section, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.
The scientists observed that the peptideA5G27 competed with laminin α5 in binding to the CD44 receptor at the site of the specific CD44 GAG side chain. A5G27 consists of 13 amino acid residues that are consistent with the laminin α5 sequence extending between residues 2893 and 2904.
From 1996 to 1999, the U.S. food and Drug Administration approved 157 new drugs. In the comparable period a decade later—that is, from 2006 to 2009—the agency approved 74. Not among them were any cures, or even meaningfully effective treatments, for Alzheimer’s disease, lung or pancreatic cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, or a host of other afflictions that destroy lives.
Also not among the new drugs approved was A5G27 In 2004 Hynda Kleinman and her colleagues at the National Institutes of Health discovered that this molecule, called a peptide, blocks the metastasis of melanoma to the lungs and other organs, at least in lab animals. The peptide also blocks angiogenesis, the creation of blood vessels that sustain metastatic tumors, they reported six years ago in the journal Cancer Research. Unfortunately, A5G27 has not been developed beyond that discovery. Kleinman was working at NIH’s dental-research institute, and, she says, “there was not a lot of support for work in cancer there at the time. They weren’t interested.” She did not have the expertise to develop the peptide herself. “I continued doing cancer research on it, but I couldn’t take it to the next level because I’m not a cancer specialist,” she says. “I was trained as a chemist.”
From 1998 to 2003, the budget of the NIH—which supports such research at universities and medical centers as well as within its own labs in Bethesda, Md.—doubled, to $27 billion, and is now $31 billion.
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