New molecule gives fresh hope for treating melanoma

25 March 2021 | Muriel Cozier

We are hopeful this drug will fill an unmet medical need for people living with this deadly cancer.

A drug candidate that blocks the uptake of glutamine, slowing the growth of melanoma, may provide a new weapon in the treatment of tumours. Glutamine is a key food source for many tumours.

Publishing their work in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, California, US, say the new drug is a small molecule that targets the glutamine transporter SLC1A5.  The research team screened some 7000 compounds for their ability to interfere with SLC1A5; 20 promising options were identified. Of these 20 compounds one was found to have a ‘superior ability’ in preventing SLC1A5 from reaching the cell membrane. The drug candidate, known as IMD-0354, inhibited tumour growth in both cell culture and in mice with melanoma.

Ze’ev Ronai PhD, Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Centre at Stanford Burnham Prebys, and senior author of the study said; ‘While great strides have been made recently in the treatment of melanoma, many patients’ tumours become resistant to therapy, and this has become a major obstacle in the successful treatment of the disease. We are hopeful this drug will fill an unmet medical need for people living with this deadly cancer.’ It was also noted that the new drug offered a new therapeutic approach for treating a range of cancers.

The American Cancer Society says that in the US, more than 7000 people die from melanoma each year. In the past decade, immunotherapy and personalised treatments have extended survival times for many patients. However, because of the high incidence of cancer recurrence, scientists are increasingly focused on therapeutic strategies to prevent relapse and increase overall survival.

The research team will further refine IMD-0354, with a focus on improving biophysical properties that will help accelerate preclinical evaluation of the drug candidate.

DOI: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-20-0354

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