Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a drug that mimics sunlight to make the skin tan, with no damaging UV radiation involved.
According to researchers, the drug tricks the skin into producing the brown form of the pigment melanin in tests on skin samples and mice.
Evidence suggests the drug will work even on redheads, who normally just burn in the sun.
The team hopes the discovery could prevent skin cancer and even slow the appearance of ageing.
UV light makes the skin tan by causing damage.
Image source Pexels
This kicks off a chain of chemical reactions in the skin that ultimately leads to dark melanin – the body’s natural sun block – being made.
The drug is rubbed into the skin to skip the damage and kick-start the process of making melanin.
It is a markedly different approach to fake tan, which “paints” the skin without the protection from melanin, sun beds, which expose the skin to UV light or pills that claim to boost melanin production but still need UV light.
However, the team is not motivated by making a new cosmetic.
Tests, detailed in the journal Cell Reports, have shown the melanin produced by the drug was able to block harmful UV rays.
Eventually the scientists want to combine their drug with sun-cream to give maximum protection from solar radiation.
The way the drug works could also allow a ginger tan, as the genetic mutation that causes red hair and fair skin disrupts the normal process where UV light leads to dark melanin.
It is not yet clear if the drug might have the unintended consequence of affecting the glorious hair color, but it is thought the hair follicle is too deep in the skin for the drug to reach.
Anyway, whether you are ginger, blonde or brunette, the drug is not yet ready for commercial use.
According to a new research, HIV can be flushed out of its hiding places in the body using PEP005 – one of the ingredients in a treatment to prevent cancer in sun-damaged skin.
The cornerstone of treatment, anti-retroviral therapy, kills the virus in the bloodstream but leaves “HIV reservoirs” untouched.
The study, published in PLoS Pathogens, showed PEP005 was “highly potent” at reactivating hidden HIV.
Experts said the findings were interesting, but it was important to know if PEP005 was safe in patients.
The power of the HIV reservoir was shown with the case of the Mississippi baby.
The baby girl was given antiretroviral drugs at birth. Despite appearing to be free of HIV for nearly two years after stopping treatment, she was found to be harboring the virus.
A strategy known as “kick and kill” is thought to be key to curing HIV – the kick would wake up the dormant HIV allowing the drugs to kill it.
The team at the Davis School of Medicine investigated PEP005. They tested the drug in cells grown in the laboratory and in parts of the immune system taken from 13 people with HIV.
The report said “PEP005 is highly potent in reactivating latent HIV” and that the chemical represents “a new group of lead compounds for combating HIV”.
One of the researchers, Dr, Satya Dandekar, said: “We are excited to have identified an outstanding candidate for HIV reactivation and eradication that is already approved and is being used in patients.
“This molecule has great potential to advance into translational and clinical studies.”
However, PEP005 has still not been tested in people who are HIV-positive.
Researchers have found that a genetically-engineered version of the cold sore virus (herpes simplex virus) could treat skin cancer.
T-Vec, the modified herpes virus, is harmless to normal cells but when injected into tumors it replicates and releases substances to help fight the cancer.
The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show the therapy could lengthen survival by years – but only for some melanoma patients.
The treatment is not yet licensed.
Similar “immunotherapy” treatments for melanoma are already available in the US and in Europe, but researchers believe T-Vec would be a welcome addition to these.
It would also be the first melanoma treatment that uses a virus.
The latest study is the largest ever randomized trial of an anti-cancer virus and involved 436 patients from 64 centers in the US, the UK, Canada and South Africa who had inoperable malignant melanoma.
UK trial leader Prof Kevin Harrington, from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “There is increasing excitement over the use of viral treatments like T-Vec for cancer, because they can launch a two-pronged attack on tumors – both killing cancer cells directly and marshalling the immune system against them.
“And because viral treatment can target cancer cells specifically, it tends to have fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy or some of the other new immunotherapies.”
Although it has not yet been licensed, doctors are excited about the very real prospect of a brand new type of treatment for advanced melanoma – and, in the future, possibly other cancers too.
The idea of using viruses to enter and kill cancerous cells has been gathering scientific pace and kudos.
This latest study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology is the largest ever randomized trial of an anti-cancer virus and provides tantalizing evidence that the treatment concept could soon be moved into the clinic, after decades of work in the lab.
Researchers now want to do more studies to identify which patients might benefit from the treatment and whether it should be used alongside other melanoma drugs that are already approved.
Drug regulators will be watching closely and will soon make a final decision about T-Vec.
Damage to the skin by the sun’s harmful UV rays increases your risk of developing this cancer.
Vinnie Jones revealed he has had several lumps removed after being diagnosed with skin cancer.
The 48-year-old actor and footballer noticed a small blemish below his eye in February, thinking it was “a blackhead or a wart”.
A check-up revealed it was melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, which kills 1,300 men and 900 women every year.
Doctors have since found more tumors, but Vinnie Jones told The Sun he would fight it with “everything I’ve got”.
“When the doctor said I had skin cancer, the first thing I thought was <<how long have I got?>>” Vinnie Jones told the newspaper.
“It’s weighing very heavily on me all the time,” he said.
Malignant Melanoma is largely preventable by avoiding strong sunlight and using high-factor sun creams.
Vinnie Jones revealed he has had several lumps removed after being diagnosed with skin cancer
Treatment is more likely to be successful if melanoma is spotted early.
Vinnie Jones said that, subsequent to the removal of the tumor under his eye, doctors had found more cancer in the same area and, two months ago, he had a third operation to remove a tumor from the back of his head.
He blamed his outdoor lifestyle for the cancer – noting that after growing up on the football pitch, he had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a film career.
Now working with the Melanoma Research Foundation, Vinnie Jones urged people to be more aware of exposure to the sun.
“Footballers never put on sunblock and they should all be wearing it,” he said.
“Kids should all be wearing it every time they play sport.”
“If you spot something on your skin that doesn’t feel right… get it checked out immediately.”
Vinnie Jones also revealed his wife Tanya had been fighting skin cancer, a result of drugs she had been taking since having a heart transplant 26 years ago.
The star, who has appeared in films including X-Men: The Last Stand and Lock,Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, was previously captain of the Welsh Football Team and played for Wimbledon, Chelsea and QPR, among others.
Vinnie Jones’ revelation comes days after fellow actor Hugh Jackman disclosed he had been treated for skin cancer.
Hugh Jackman revealed he has been treated for skin cancer after seeking advice for a mark on his nose.
Hugh Jackman, 45, posted an image of his face with a bandage on his nose on his Instagram account and wrote: “Please don’t be foolish like me. Get yourself checked.And USE sunscreen!!!”
The actor said he had been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (BCC).
BCC usually develops on skin exposed to the sun, and accounts for about 75% of skin cancers.
Hugh Jackman revealed he has been treated for skin cancer after seeking advice for a mark on his nose
Hugh Jackman, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for his performance as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, said his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, had told him to seek medical advice.
“Deb said to get the mark on my nose checked. Boy, was she right!”
Hugh Jackman did not say when he was diagnosed or what treatment he received, but said that anyone with concerns should seek medical advice.
BCC produces cancerous cells on the surface of the skin. Surgery is the main treatment. If left untreated, it rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but it can damage or disfigure surrounding tissue.
British researchers have found that melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, is able to fend off the body’s immune system.
Analysis of tumor and blood samples shows that melanoma knocks out the body’s best immune defence.
A potential test could work out which patients are likely to respond to treatment, the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports.
Cancer Research UK said the body’s response was a “complex puzzle”.
Previous work from the team at King’s College London showed that while patients with melanoma produced antibodies that could attack tumor cells, the immune system often seemed powerless to stop the cancer progressing.
But in the latest research they discovered that the subtype of antibody attracted by the melanoma cells was the most ineffective at mounting the right sort of response.
In samples from 80 melanoma patients researchers say that the conditions created by the tumor attract IgG4 antibodies, which mount the weakest response and in turn interfere with any “strong” IgG1 antibodies that might be present.
By mimicking the conditions created by melanomas, they showed that in the presence of tumor cells, the immune system sent out IgG4 antibodies, but when faced with healthy cells it functioned as expected with IgG1 circulating.
They also confirmed that IgG4 was ineffective in launching an immune attack against cancer cells.
Melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, is able to fend off the body’s immune system
In additional tests in 33 patients, they found that those with higher levels of the weak antibody IgG4 had a less favorable prognosis compared with those with levels nearer to normal.
Study author Dr. Sophie Karagiannis said: “This work bears important implications for future therapies since not only are IgG4 antibodies ineffective in activating immune cells to kill tumors but they also work by blocking antibodies from killing tumor cells.”
She said not only was IgG4 stopping the patient’s more powerful antibodies from eradicating cancer, but it could also explain why some treatments based on boosting the immune response may be less effective in some patients.
Co-author Prof. Frank Nestle said more work was needed on developing IgG4 as a potential test to improve patient care by helping to identify patients most likely to respond to treatments.
“This study can also inform the rational design of novel strategies to counteract IgG4 actions,” he added.
Dr. Kat Arney, science communications manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “There’s a lot we don’t yet understand about how our immune system recognizes and responds to cancer, so we’re pleased to have supported this new research that’s helping to solve such a complex puzzle.
“This work is still at an early stage, but it’s a step towards developing more effective treatments for skin cancer and potentially other types of cancer in the future.”
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