Experimental Drug Shows Efficacy Across Cancer Types

Pevonedistat shows potential to stop melanoma and other types of cancer.

Researchers recently discovered how the investigational drug, pevonedistat, kills cancer cells, showing potential to stop melanoma and other types of cancer.

It was determined that pevonedistat acts on a particular protein called CDT2, which melanomas and other cancers rely on to replicate with speed and deadly effect. The findings were published in EBioMedicine.

“We think that this is what lets the cancer cells cope with the amount of replication they must undergo,” said lead researcher Tarek Abbas, PhD. “They divide in uncontrolled fashion, and those cells that divide faster and more frequently are under tremendous replications stress, so these cancer cells needed to be able to develop a way to cope with that.”

This protein is produced by the gene CDT2, and is critical for malignant cancer cells to survive. Without the protein, the cells will stop replicating and start to fall apart.

“We have great understanding now for how the drug works,” Abbas said. “And we think the drug works not because of its intended target, but rather because it works on [the CDT2 protein] way downstream of that.”

The study authors noted that high levels of this protein are also found in other tumors, including breast, brain, and liver tumors. They determined that eventually, physicians may be able to use the protein level as a way to gauge disease prognosis.

"We have great hope that this drug will have a very significant impact on melanoma in general,” Abbas said. “… In fact, the drug is very effective on all melanomas, including those for which an effective therapeutic is lacking. We actually show this drug can work on melanoma that resisted treatment, which is a major challenge in melanoma therapy. … If approved by the FDA and it moves forward, this drug could potentially be a good second-line therapy for those patients that fail initial treatment.”

Currently pevonedistat is still in clinical trials testing safety and efficacy, and the drug is not yet available for treatment.