A team from French National Institute of Health and Medical Research Inserm led by Stéphane Rocchi has synthesised and developed new drugs to treat melanoma, a highly malignant form of skin cancer.

One such drug, HA15, helps reduce the viability of melanoma cells without being toxic for other normal cells.

Melanoma affects melanocytes, cells responsible for the synthesis of melanin, which gives the skin its colour.

The identification of new drug candidates is an unavoidable element for the establishment of effective biotherapies against melanoma.

The researchers from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have discovered a new family of drugs, the Thiazole Benzensulfonamides (TZB), which possesses useful anticancer properties.

Stéphane Rocchi said: "Initially this family of drugs was identified in type II diabetes, as it increased the sensitivity of cells to insulin.

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"Initially this family of drugs was identified in type II diabetes, as it increased the sensitivity of cells to insulin."

"If we wanted to use it against cancer, we had to be able to eliminate this proinsulin activity. Therefore we started to modify its structure."

The initial TZD structure was later extensively modified to obtain a new formulation with the lead compound as HA15.

The researchers, in collaboration with the Dermatology Department in Nice University Hospital, demonstrated that the drugs, when administered on humans, are active on melanoma cells.

HA15 is also effective on cell lines of other forms of tumours that include cancer of the prostate, pancreas, breast, colon, and gliomas and chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Image: A melanoma on a patient’s skin. Photo: courtesy of National Cancer Institute.