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January 04, 2019

Jefferson researchers discover promising treatment for most common adult eye cancer

A compound extracted from the Christmas berry primrose plant seemingly stopped the cancer’s development

Prevention Cancer
eyeball pexels Tookapic/Pexels

Researchers at Jefferson Health’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai have discovered a promising treatment in halting the growth of a type of eye cancer that affects about 2,000 adults annually, Jefferson announced in a press release on Friday.

The research, published in Molecular Cancer Research journal, found that a compound extracted from the Christmas berry primrose plant stopped the cancer’s development in preliminary tests, and researchers believe this discovery could lead to new treatment options for patients with uveal melanoma.

Per the release, uveal melanoma is one of the most common eye cancers in adults and can be lethal, accounting for five percent of all melanoma cases. The cancer forms in melanocytes, the cells that make pigment, and in about 50 percent of cases spreads to the liver.

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Currently, surgery or radiation are the go-to treatments for patients with uveal melanoma that hasn’t spread. But once the disease has spread, patients typically only have about a year to live due to a lack of effective therapy.

The researchers tested whether a compound — FR900359, or FR for short —derived from an ornamental plant in the primrose family known as Ardisia crenata, might be able to fight the disease. FR works by blocking a particular type of G protein that sits on a cell’s membrane, called Gq – an important signaling molecule. Some of these proteins are mutated in uveal melanoma, turning on a molecular pathway that leads to cancer growth, Jefferson states.

Higher doses of FR killed the cells, the researchers report in the study, making this finding promising in the future treatment of uveal melanoma.

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