US researchers have found that an oral drug can be effective in stopping tumours from growing.
The team from the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that slowing down NLRP3 can reduce inflammation and curb tumour growth and progression.
"NLRP3 is a member of a larger family that is involved in sensing danger signals," said Carlo Marchetti, from the varsity's School of Medicine.
"It is a receptor that surveils the intercellular compartment of a cell, looking for danger molecules or pathogens.
"When NLRP3 recognises these signals, it leads to the activation of caspase-1, a protein involved in the processing and maturation of interleukin-1-beta into its biological active form, causing an intense inflammatory response. We found that in melanoma, this process is dysregulated, resulting in tumour growth," Marchetti said.
The study is published in the journal PNAS.
The oral NLRP3 inhibitor used in the study (Dapansutrile) has already shown to be effective in clinical trials to treat gout and heart disease, and it is currently being tested in Covid-19 as well.
The researchers are now trying to find out if this NLRP3 inhibitor can be successfully used in melanoma patients who are resistant to checkpoint inhibitors.
"Checkpoint inhibitors increase the efficacy of the immune system to kill tumours, but sometimes tumours become resistant to this treatment," Marchetti said.
"A big part of cancer research now is to find therapies that can be combined with checkpoint inhibitors to improve their efficacy," he noted.
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