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Skin cancer: LBC caller warns against using sunbeds

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The study, led by Professor Nikola Bowden and Dr Andre van der Westhuizen of the HMRI (Hunter Medical Research Institute) looked into whether it could be possible to treat skin cancer not by creating new drugs, but by repurposing others.

The results of the study have been published in the Cancer Research Communications journal in the United States, but the findings have global consequences.

It was discovered that treating patients with two pre-existing drugs, known as Azacitidine and Carboplatin, was able to treat the cancer cells.

The two drugs in question already form part of existing cancer-killing chemotherapy treatments; however, they have never been administered in this way. The team behind the study have been studying these drugs for around seven years.

On average, the patients administered with this combination of drugs survived for an average of 47 years, and four of the original patient cohort survived as a result of the treatment they received.

The study concluded: “Priming with azacitidine and carboplatin can induce disease stabilization and resensitization to ICB for metastatic melanoma.”

Professor Bowden said: “For some of the patients, it was like the tumours were frozen in time and they stayed the same for a very long time. Some patients even experienced a reduction in tumour size and number.”

As well as repurposing two chemotherapy treatments, tylenol after vaccines the drugs were also used in conjunction with a new form of immunotherapy.

Professor Bowden explained how it worked: “Melanoma cells send out a signal to the immune system that says, ‘I’m meant to be here’. The chemo drug combination we used mobilises the immune system to attack the tumours while the immunotherapy blocks that signal.”

Such has been the success of the trial, that the immunotherapy drugs are undergoing a second-stage clinical trial. Professor Bowden said: “Initial results suggest that this group of patients are doing even better on the new drugs.”

The hope is that, if successful, the treatment could become available to patients with skin cancer in the future.

Why is the study significant?

The authors described the study as significant because of “limited treatments for melanoma once resistance to ICB occurs. Chemotherapy induces immune-related responses and may be repurposed to reinstate the response to ICB”.

They added: “This study provides the first evidence that chemotherapy can provide clinical benefit and increase OS for ICB-resistant melanoma.”

Why drug repurposing trials are significant

Any cancer treatment study is exciting as it represents a new opportunity for scientists to beat back cancer and find ways to cure patients or extend their lives. Furthermore, drug repurposing trials provide an opportunity for a treatment shortcut.

The reason a successful drug repurposing trial is a pseudo shortcut is that it saves a lot of resources which would have had to be used to develop an entirely new drug and means the treatment can make its way to patients faster.

In summary, drug repurposing trials save time and money for both patients and doctors; this is particularly relevant to skin cancer as rates are rising, notably in the UK.

While skin melanomas can spread to other parts of the body, they can be prevented from doing so by being caught early. This means knowing what to look out for and keeping an eye on the surface of one’s skin.

The NHS as an ABCDE checklist for those who are concerned about a mole:
• Asymmetrical – Melanomas are not symmetrical and have an irregular shape
• Border – They normally have a notched or ragged border
• Colours – Melanomas are a mix of two or more colours
• Diameter – Melanomas are usually larger than six millimetres
• Enlargement or elevation – Melanomas change in size and shape over time.
Does skin cancer matter now it’s autumn?

Yes, autumn and winter are when skin cancers may begin to develop. Cancer is not like a flash burn; it is not instantaneous. It is for this reason that getting checked if a mole or spot is of concern is essential.

Although it may not be melanoma or a non-melanoma, it is far better to get it checked and for it to be not cancer than to wait and discover it is and the condition has advanced to a point where treatment of the kind being trialled is required.

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