Experimental drugs aim to tackle melanoma 'escape route'

In collaboration with the Press Association
Melanoma cells dividing

Manchester researchers are developing a new generation of targeted melanoma drugs that could bypass treatment resistance seen with current therapies.

"We are very hopeful that they will ultimately become new first or second-line options for patients" - Professor Caroline SpringerThe drugs, which work by simultaneously targeting several faulty proteins involved in cancer, could enter clinical trials in early 2015.

The targeted drugs that are currently available interfere with faulty versions of a protein – known as BRAF – which is instrumental in the development of about half of all melanomas.

But these cancers can quickly develop a resistance to them through a second protein, called SRC. 

The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK, found that the new drugs, which target SRC as well as BRAF, can overcome this resistance in cells in the laboratory, and in samples from patients with melanoma. It was published in the journal Cancer Cell
The new drugs halted the growth of melanomas driven by faulty BRAF, including ones which had previously proven resistant to the existing treatments. 

Professor Caroline Springer of the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said that there is a desperate need for more effective treatments for melanomas. 

She said the new drugs strip the cancer of its resistant “get-out clause”. 

“We are very hopeful that they will ultimately become new first or second-line options for patients,” she added. 

Study co-leader Professor Richard Marais, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, said: "Our laboratory study showed that these new drugs deliver multiple blows to cancer by hitting several cell survival routes at once. It's a step on from the drugs that are currently available which can't multi-task in this way. 

"The next step is testing this family of drugs in clinical trials to establish that they are both safe and effective in cancer patients, potentially providing urgently-needed new treatments for patients who have run out of options. The trial is set to open soon and we await the results with great interest."


  • Girotti MR et al. Paradox-Breaking RAF Inhibitors that Also Target SRC Are Effective in Drug-Resistant BRAF Mutant Melanoma (2014) Cancer Cell DOI: 10.1016/j.ccell.2014.11.006