New research has found that the drug, Leflunomide, used to treat inflamed joints and arthritis may also stop the growth of the most harmful skin cancer tumours.
After screening thousands of compounds in search of a new drug, tests found that Leflunomide significantly reduced tumour growth in mice with human-like melanoma (skin cancer). Results were even more positive when Leflunomide was combined with a melanoma drug called PLX4720, which virtually stopped the growth of cancer cells.
The speed of the trials should be quicker than normal because Leflunomide is already licensed to treat human disease, and has already been certified safe. This means that the new treatment could be available within just 5 years.
Skin cancer rates in the UK are increasing, and typically more than 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. If caught early surgery can be used to remove melanoma tumours, however if the disease is not found until later and it has spread, the prospects are not so good. Each year around 2,000 people die in the UK from malignant melanoma that has returned after surgery.