Working on a promising lead in the battle against skin cancer, scientists received a boost, when a study showed their technique had some success in first-phase clinical trials.
Scientists testing a cancer pill that blocks a specific cell regulator dubbed the Hedgehog signaling pathway, said the drug shrank some skin cancers in small-scale drug trials.
The study, funded by the drug's manufacturers Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche, showed the compound had some success in reducing the size of metastatic basal cell skin cancers.
They are among the most common, but least lethal, forms of the skin cancer.
Details of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the test 33 people were treated with the GDC-0449 compound. Eighteen patients showed tumor shrinkage or an improvement in symptoms without tumor growth, the report stated.
The drug also showed some initial success in tackling one type of brain tumor, although the gains were later reversed, according to a related report published in Science Express.
"We know that both of these cancer types have mutations in Hedgehog pathway genes," said Charles Rudin, a cancer expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who was also part of the investigative team.
"Our results with the hedgehog inhibitors could be the starting point for developing a new type of therapy for these intractable cancers."
The hedgehog pathway contains genes that help regulate the development of embryos, but is normally dormant in adults.