Sydney, Oct 14: Researchers have successfully synthesised a peptide that mimics the activity of a virus protein in killing off cells of melanoma – the most virulent skin cancer and the leading cause of death from the disease.
Taghrid Istivan of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) said lab tests with the peptide (short chain of amino acids) have shown that it kills melanoma cells, which may lead to new and non-invasive treatments.
“Currently, the only effective treatment for early stage melanoma is surgery to cut out the tumour and healthy skin surrounding the affected mole.
“The peptide we have developed is toxic to melanoma cells but leaves normal skin cells unaffected,” said Istivan, the lead investigator of the study, according to an RMIT statement.
Istivan and colleagues in RMIT’s Health Innovations Research Institute and the School of Applied Sciences tested the efficacy of a peptide that was designed to work like the proteins of the myxoma virus, a cancer-killing virus shown to be toxic to melanoma in previous studies.
“A virus protein is big, expensive to synthesise and has inherent risks when used in medical treatments, because all viruses can mutate.
“By synthesising a small peptide that mimics the action of a protein, we can offer a stable, safe, targeted and cost-effective alternative,” Istivan said.
The researchers used a novel bioengineering method developed at RMIT by Irena Cosic, professor and Elena Pirogova, from its School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to design the peptide.
These findings are being presented at the ongoing 40th Congress of the International Society of Oncology and Biomarkers in Jerusalem, Israel.