Researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa have developed a new mechanism for identifying targets capable of fighting drug-resistant melanoma— the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The Moffitt team used liquid chromatography-multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry in order to measure biomarkers and molecules in the blood and surrounding tissues. This allowed the team to determine if cancer was present in the region, and it also gave them a way to monitor a patient’s response during a course of treatment.
The researchers aimed to identify the molecular alterations that led to drug resistance in melanoma tumors. The liquid chromatography-multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry assay process was developed in order to analyze those molecular alterations relatively quickly. The resulting data was obtained much more quickly than other currently used scientific approaches. The platform also supplied scientists with highly reproducible data. More than 80 proteins associated with melanoma progression were examined, and the researchers found that MEK inhibitor drugs can become ineffective at treating tumors with certain cell signaling pathways. The researchers believe that figuring out which pathways lead melanoma to become drug resistant can ultimately lead to more effective treatments.
Keiran Smalley, PhD and researcher in the Cancer Biology and Evolution Program at Moffitt, commented on the results of the research. “While targeted therapy drugs, such as BRAF and MEK inhibitors, have been associated with impressive responses in melanoma patients, most patients will eventually fail therapy. It is likely that long-term management of melanoma patients will require combinations of drugs,” Smalley said.
The research was published in the July edition of the Molecular and Cellular Proteomics journal. It was funded in part by the grants from the National Institutes of Health.