Researchers from The University of Queensland, Australia, have developed a first-in-class topical agent that could reduce the incidence of skin cancers in organ transplant patients being treated with oral tacrolimus.
In a press release from the university, immunologist associate professor Dr. James Wells said that the new agent has shown in models to clear skin tumours that arise as a consequence of taking the anti-rejection medication.
“It’s first-in-class, meaning there is no other drug that has been developed targeting the same mechanism,” Dr. Wells said.
Having new options for preventing or treating skin cancers in transplant patients is important, the researchers note, as these patients are approximately 100 times as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) compared to the general population, and often develop multiple tumours.
“Skin cancers are often extremely aggressive in organ transplant patients with a high risk of spreading quickly and recurring post-treatment,” said Dr. Wells.
“Some patients go into hospital every month and need to have multiple tumours cut out of their skin.”
According to the release, the new molecule specifically activates cancer-clearing mechanisms at the site of the skin cancer, allowing the patient’s immune system to quickly eliminate the skin cancer without the need for invasive surgery.
Dr. Wells said that using this molecule would help the patient’s immune system clear up the cells damaged from UV rays and prevent skin cancers from growing.
The molecule was discovered by the Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI), a business unit of The University of Queensland's commercialization company UniQuest.