Melanoma is the leading cause of death from skin disease – and its rate of occurrence is steadily increasing. In America, one person dies of melanoma every hour. More than 60,000 new cases in the US are diagnosed each year, and this number is growing at an alarming rate.
In an effort to fight this trend, Penn State Hershey Melanoma Center offers a multidisciplinary approach to developing new treatments for melanoma patients. The Melanoma Center convenes researchers and clinicians from dermatology, oncology, pharmacology, and other areas with a goal of identifying and evaluating new agents and clinical interventions. Discoveries developed in the research portion of the Melanoma Center are tested through a portfolio of clinical trials offered to patients.
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine have made significant discoveries regarding melanoma for many years. Numerous proteins have been identified by the Center's members as playing important roles in the development of melanoma, and the Center is developing drugs to target these proteins to more effectively kill melanoma cells. In 2009, Gavin Robertson, Ph.D., director of the Melanoma Center and professor of pharmacology, pathology, dermatology, and surgery, and his colleagues identified a drug called ISC-4, based on the anti-cancer compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage and kale, which inhibited the activity of a protein called Akt3 identified at Penn State. Though still years away from human trials, Robertson envisions a drug that could be used intravenously by melanoma patients, as well as preventively in sunscreen by the general public.