Anti-malarial drug eyed for melanoma

January 19, 2011

Researchers are studying whether an anti-malaria drug can block a cellular process that acts as a survival method for malignant cells in melanoma.

New Brunswick, N.J. - Researchers are studying whether an anti-malaria drug can block a cellular process that acts as a survival method for malignant cells in melanoma.

Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) investigators are conducting a clinical trial to further explore how to prevent cancer cells from resisting therapies that attempt to starve the disease, Newswise.com reports. The new study builds upon recent discoveries.

Hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria and some types of arthritis, has been shown to block autophagy, the process by which cells devour themselves to survive stress. This process allows cells to become resistant to cancer therapies. CINJ researchers have found that drugs such as hydroxychloroquine may help cancer treatments work more effectively by enabling cancer drugs to enter cells more easily.

Researchers want to learn how to detect the process of autophagy in melanoma patients. Newswise.com quotes lead researcher Janice Mehnert, M.D., as saying, “By further examining the process of autophagy and learning if hydroxychloroquine is able to interrupt this process in human blood and tumor samples, we may be able to find a way to maximize the benefit of hydroxychloroquine in order to improve clinical outcomes.”

The study will include adults with stage III or stage IV melanoma tumors who can be scheduled for surgery, and who meet other criteria.