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Wednesday 17th January 2018

Cancer clue from tadpoles

30th January 2009

Researchers say that tadpoles may hold the key to developing effective skin cancer drugs.


A team of scientists from the University of East Anglia has identified a compound which blocks the movement of the pigment cells that give the tadpoles their distinctive markings. The compound in this study works by inhibiting matrix metaloproteinases (MMP).

With uncontrolled movement of pigment cells causing skin cancer in both humans and frogs, the next step is to test the compound in other animals.

The findings, published in the journal Chemistry & Biology, saw the scientists looking at 40 of the compounds.

Lead researcher Grant Wheeler, said: "The reason we were able to look at so many compounds was because it's very easy to look at the embryos and see the colour change. The pigment cells are interesting for a number of reasons.

"The first is that the place where they develop is not where they end up - they move through the embryo in a process called cell migration."

The disease becomes deadly when melanoma cells migrate through the body to the organs and cause secondary tumours. Melanomas are one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer because they are highly invasive and resistant to treatment.

But scientists hope that if they can block this process, they can halt the cancer.

However, Mr Wheeler said that the study is still a long way from finding a cure for melanoma.

The British Skin Foundation said the discovery was worth keeping an eye on but a breakthrough was unlikely within a decade.


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