Trials of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors that appear to make eye tumours less likely to grow if they spread to other parts of the body could begin in the next six to 12 months.
Uveal melanoma, the second most common form of melanoma, can be very aggressive and spread, or metastasize, from the eye to other organs, especially the liver.
“Melanoma in general, and uveal melanoma in particular, is notoriously difficult to treat once it has metastasised and grown in a distant organ,” said the principal investigator J. William Harbour, the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and professor of cell biology and molecular oncology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, U.S.A.
“We previously identified an aggressive class 2 molecular type of uveal melanoma that, in most cases, already has metastasised by the time the eye cancer is diagnosed, even though imaging the body can’t detect it yet. This microscopic amount of cancer can remain dormant in the liver and elsewhere for several years before it begins to grow and becomes lethal.”
This microscopic amount of cancer can remain dormant in the liver and elsewhere for several years before it begins to grow and becomes lethal
Once this happens, the prospects for survival are poor, according to Prof. Harbour whose new study shows that drugs known as HDAC inhibitors alter the conformation of the DNA of the aggressive form of uveal melanoma, which changes the way key genes are expressed, rendering the tumor cells less aggressive.
Because HDAC inhibitors already are on the market, Prof. Harbour said it may be possible to quickly begin tests in patients with aggressive forms of uveal melanoma. Find out more online in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.