A study by scientists at the UK’s University of East Anglia (UEA) has shown that rheumatoid arthritis drug leflunomide could be used to help treat advanced skin cancer.
Performed in mice, the study demonstrated that the conjunctive treatment with a drug called selumetinib almost completely terminated the growth of melanoma tumour.
Melanoma is treatable during early stages, yet is reported to cause the majority of deaths and becomes resistant to most drugs when it advances.
UEA School of Biological Sciences researcher Dr Grant Wheeler said: “By combining therapies, it’s possible to attack the disease from several angles, which makes it harder for the melanoma to develop resistance to any of the drugs.
“Our research has shown that there could also be further benefits, by joining these two drugs together you may be able to enhance their effects, getting a treatment that is more than the sum of its parts.”
Leflunomide is an immunosuppressive drug, and selumetinib targets the MEK protein used by melanoma for survival.
Researchers previously found that leflunomide is effective as a combination therapy for melanoma with BRAFV600E mutation, while the latest study showed its effect on melanoma cells with any genetic signature.
Leflunomide was observed to halt the growth of the tumour cells in the early phase, triggering them to self-destruct. The arthritis drug was found to be more effective when combined with selumetinib.
Researchers intend to carry out additional tests on the combination treatment before advancing to clinical trials.