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  • Posted: 01/10/2013

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NCI Cancer Center News

Drug-resistant melanoma tumors shrink in mice when therapy is interrupted

Researchers in California and Switzerland, working with mice, have discovered that melanomas that develop resistance to the anti-cancer drug vemurafenib (Zelboraf), also develop addiction to the drug, an observation that may have important implications for the lives of patients with late-stage disease. The team, based at UCSF (home of the Helen Diller Family Comprehsnsive Cancer Center), the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) in Emeryville, Calif., and University Hospital Zurich, found that one mechanism by which melanoma cells become resistant to vemurafenib also renders them “addicted” to the drug. As a result, the melanoma cells nefariously use vemurafenib to spur the growth of rapidly progressing, deadly and drug-resistant tumors. As described this week in the journal Nature, the team built upon this basic discovery and showed that adjusting the dosing of the drug and introducing an on-again, off-again treatment schedule prolonged the life of mice with melanoma.

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NCI comprehensive cancer centers logoAmong the research institutions NCI funds across the United States, it currently designates 67 as Cancer Centers. Largely based in research universities, these facilities are home to many of the NCI-supported scientists who conduct a wide range of intense, laboratory research into cancer’s origins and development. The Cancer Centers Program also focuses on trans-disciplinary research, including population science and clinical research. The centers’ research results are often at the forefront of studies in the cancer field.