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Researchers Use Nanoparticles in Melanoma Treatment

Posted: September 18, 2008

Nanoparticles filled with a drug that targets two genes that trigger melanoma could offer a potential cure for this deadly disease, according to cancer researchers. The treatment, administered through an ultrasound device, demonstrates a safer and more effective way of targeting cancer-causing genes in cancer cells without harming normal tissue.

"It is a very selective and targeted approach," said Gavin Robertson, associate professor of pharmacology, pathology and dermatology at Penn State College of Medicine. "And unlike most other cancer drugs that inadvertently affect a bunch of proteins, we are able to knock out single genes."

The Penn State researchers speculated that "silencing RNA" (siRNA)--strands of RNA molecules that knock out specific genes--could turn off the two cancer-causing genes and potentially treat the deadly disease more effectively.

"siRNA checks the expression of the two genes, which then lowers the abnormal levels of the cancer-causing proteins in cells," explained Robertson, who is lead author of the paper appearing in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

In recent years, researchers have zeroed in on two key genes--B-Raf and Akt3--that cause melanoma. B-Raf, the most frequently mutated gene in melanoma, produces the mutant protein, which helps mole cells survive and grow but does not form melanomas on its own. Robertson and colleagues previously found that a protein called Akt3 regulates the activity of the mutated B-Raf, which aids the development of melanoma.