Scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have hit upon a drug that will help contain the spread of a deadly type of eye cancer to other parts of the body. It was a surprise find to see that this drug is usually used to treat victims of seizures.
The particularly lethal type of eye cancer is known as uveal melanoma which is known to be rather very aggressive and metastasizes from the eye to other organs, especially the liver. As with most cancer once the spreading begins it makes the chances of survival rather slim. (1)
According to the first author and principal researcher J. William Harbour, MD, “We previously identified an aggressive class 2 molecular type of uveal melanoma that, in most cases, already has metastasized 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.” (2)
The drug in question is known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors. It’s main function is to change the way genes in the DNA material are expressed and this inturn makes the cancer cells less aggressive.
The HDAC was able to reverse the aggressive molecular structure of the tumor cells to the extent that when seen under a microscope, the cancerous cells treated with HDAC looked like normal cells and not tumor cells. (3)
The good news is that because it is a drug usually prescribed by doctors to those who suffer from seizures, it is already something that is available in the market and can be used for testing on patients with aggressive form of uveal melanoma.
Another good thing is that the drug has rather mild side effects with the most severe being drowsiness. In fact, an HDAC class compound called SAHA (suberoylanilide hydroxic acid) has already been applied for funding to begin testing.
Harbour, along with his colleagues, have already developed a detection test that has the ability to forecast whether the particular uveal melanoma is likely to metastase and spread to the liver and other parts of the body.