Tiny Medicine Delivering Big Results Against Melanoma

Nanomedicine can be delivered to MC1R receptors as a possible melanoma therapy

(RxWiki News) As things get smaller, like cell phones, it seems to be they just keep getting more powerful. The same can be said of medicine as super-small particles are delivering powerful tools to battle melanoma.

Researchers from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa are looking at something very small to combat melanoma. Nanomedicine delivers drugs to a target on the surface of a cell. Researchers are looking at the MC1R receptor as a key target for melanoma treatments.

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Researchers are working overtime to find potential new treatments, as incidents of malignant melanoma are rising faster than any other cancer. It is estimated that over 70,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2011.

According to the study, close to 80 percent of all malignant melanoma tumors have a high-level of the MC1R receptors. Receptors are found on the surface of a cell and are involved with numerous functions of a cell. MC1R has been associated with hair color and pigmentation.

Researchers, after identifying MC1R as a target for treatment, may have found the right molecule, called a ligand, to tag and target MC1R. By tagging the receptor, these molecules allow for nanomedicine to be delivered directly to the cancer cells. 

Ligands aren't used to just develop new treatments, but can also be used to image and identify cancer cells. Since these molecules are attracted and attach to certain receptors, scientists can use these tags and locate exactly where the cancer is.

That's easier said than done, though, because these ligands may fall off the receptor, may collapse before the nanomedicine arrives or might be too large to exit the bloodstream. All these issues had to be addressed before scientists felt comfortable using this molecular tag for targeting melanoma.

For researchers, this newly-identified ligand that targets MC1R could be a possible treatment for melanoma. Research is currently underway on mice and future clinical studies would be needed before it can be a treatment option for melanoma.

This study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Review Date: 
November 8, 2011