Scientists identify weak point in deadly eye melanoma

IMAGE: Uveal melanoma, the large green mass pictured, is a cancer of the eye that has no targeted therapies. A new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis… view more 

Credit: P. Kumar Rao

A natural plant compound exploits a newly identified Achilles’ heel in a cancer of the eye, uveal melanoma. In human cancer cells growing in the lab, the compound shuts down the overactive signaling that drives uveal melanoma cell growth, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study is published Sept. 4 in the journal Science Signaling.

Uveal, or ocular, melanoma arises from the layer of pigmented cells of the eye that includes the iris. Fatal in about half of the patients who develop it, the cancer represents about 3 to 5 percent of all melanoma cases. Unlike skin melanoma, uveal melanoma is not strongly linked to exposure to ultraviolet light, although, the researchers note, individuals with blue eyes and fair skin are at highest risk of developing the disease.

“In about half of patients, this tumor metastasizes to other organs and grows aggressively,” said senior author Kendall J. Blumer, PhD, a professor of cell biology and


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