According to a team of researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine, there’s a new kind of medication that can potentially prevent melanoma from becoming treatment-resistant. It involves a combination of several drugs and is delivered through the use of nanoparticles.
The drug is called CelePlum-777. It combines the anti-inflammatory drug Celecoxib and a toxin known as Plumbagin in a special ratio that’s designed to travel on nanoparticles and kill melanoma cancer cells. Once exposed to the drug, the melanoma cells apparently find it difficult to overcome the effect of two active ingredients simultaneously attacking them.
Melanoma is commonly, but not always necessarily, a cancer of the skin. More often than not, cases of melanoma are associated with ultraviolet exposure, whether naturally (from the sunlight) or artificially (such as indoor tanning beds). Melanoma is often seen on the skin, which makes it easier than other cancers to detect. But just like other cancers, it can easily spread to other tissues and organs, and when it does, treatment becomes virtually impossible.
The research team tested CelePlum-777 in cancer cells that were being grown in culture dishes, as well as in tumors growing in mice. After intravenous injection of CelePlum-777, they found that there was no further development of tumors in the mice. Aside from showing no visible side effects, it seems the drugs were also able to prevent proteins from allowing cancer cells to grow uncontrollably.
As pointed out by Raghavendra Gowda, assistant professor at Penn State and lead author of the study, the use of nanoparticles is an innovative way of delivering and releasing several drugs to a specific spot at the ‘optimal cancer-killing ratio’. She says that “by combining the drugs, lower concentrations of each that are more effective and less toxic can be used.”
The challenge with Celecoxib and Plumbagin is that both cannot be administered orally since they can’t enter the body well through that method. Additionally, if the drugs are to be ingested, they cannot be used together in the required ratio because they will be toxic to the patient at such concentration levels.
In contrast, CelePlum-777 can be safely injected intravenously. And because of its tiny size, it is able to accumulate inside the tumors where it releases the drug combo to attack the cancer cells.
As Professor Gavin Robertson — senior author and director of the Penn State Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center – said in a report that came out from PennState: “This drug is the first of a new class, loaded with multiple agents to more effectively kill melanoma cells, that has potential to reduce the possibility of resistance development. There is no drug like it in the clinic today and it is likely that the next breakthrough in melanoma treatment will come from a drug like this one.”
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requiring more research before human clinical trials for CelePlum-777 can be done, Cipher Pharmaceuticals has been granted by the Penn State the patent and license to perform the FDA-required tests.
The findings have been reported in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics and Cancer Letters journals.