An Ointment for the Prevention of Skin Cancer is Being Developed by FEFU Scientists

Skin Cancer

The risks of skin cancer and its recurrence can be significantly reduced by using ointments with antisense oligonucleotides – short DNA or RNA fragments, which are already used in oncology to suppress the synthesis of tumor proteins, scientists of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) believe. They conducted a joint study on this topic with colleagues from the Crimean Federal University named after V.I. Vernadsky, the Russian University of Chemical Technology named after D.I. Mendeleev and the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (FEB RAS). The scientific review has been published in the international journal of chemistry “Molecules”.

The ointment, which is developed by the scientific group, will contain antisense oligonucleotides. Their role is to support the functions of proteins that are responsible for apoptosis in the body, a natural mechanism that allows cells to carry out preprogrammed death. Under the influence of primary damaging factors, such as ultraviolet (sun, tanning beds), these proteins may cease to function in transformed cells, the regulation of apoptosis is impaired, and in some cases it becomes impossible. The cells begin to divide uncontrollably, mutate and enable the development of tumors.

“The most reliable way to get rid of a cancerous tumor on the skin is its surgical removal. At different stages of tumor development, especially if we are talking about the most aggressive and deadly types of skin cancer – Merkel melanoma and carcinoma – it is difficult to determine its boundaries and depth. In this case, it seems promising to use special ointments. This will help relieve the patient of some aesthetic defects that inevitably remain after the operations. In some cases, at the initial stages of the disease, ointment treatment may, perhaps, completely avoid the need for operation” said Vadim Kumeiko, deputy director for the development of the FEFU School of Biomedicine.

The researchers have focused on the development of ointments containing antisense oligonucleotides for BCL-2 and survivin proteins. It will be designed to combat the deadliest type of skin cancer – melanoma. The components will penetrate the stratum corneum and reach melanocytes and progenitor cells, the mutation of which can lead to the development of a deadly tumor.

One of the main issues in the development of such an ointment remains the speed of delivery of antisense oligonucleotides into human mutated cancerous tissues. The fact is that these compounds are unstable and can lose their effectiveness even before they reach damaged skin cells. For the same reason, the strategy of local application of the ointment directly to the damaged cells seems to be more effective in trying to deliver oligonucleotides to them by other means, for example, intravenous.

Skin cancer remains the most common type of neoplastic disease. It accounts for one of three cases of diagnosed malignant neoplasms. Ultraviolet radiation of natural and artificial origin is one of the main factors affecting the degeneration of human skin cells into tumor cells. As a rule, cancer develops in those areas of the skin that most often fall under the influence of sunlight or tanning beds. Men and women of different ages and skin color are prone to this disease. In the high-risk group, scientists include the elderly, people with white or light-colored skin, blue eyes, as well as red-haired people.

The work was supported by funding under the Development Program of the Crimean Federal University named after V.I. Vernadsky for 2015-2024.