Background: Protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) inhibition has been identified as a promising strategy in the development of new selective therapies, targeting the signaling pathways in melanoma progression. Gleevec, a novel class of anti-tumor drugs, may have a potential therapeutic benefit in melanoma, which involves abnormal activation of abl, c-kit, and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) tyrosine kinases.
Methods: Tumor biopsies from 13 patients with metastatic melanoma were screened by immunohistochemistry for PTK [c-kit, C-abl, Abl-related gene (ARG), PDGF receptor-alpha (PDGFR-alpha) and PDGFR-beta] expression before and after being treated with Gleevec @ 400 mg bid for 2 weeks. Both, percentage of positive cells and staining intensity were evaluated.
Results: We found a statistically significant (p < 0.01) selective loss of PTK expression in the follow-up biopsy, both in intensity and number of positive cells. PDGFR-alpha and -beta had the highest level of expression reduction. One patient had a durable clinical response, and the follow-up biopsy showed negative expression for four of the PTKs, namely c-abl, ARG, PDGFR-alpha, and beta.
Conclusions: Our study reports for the first time the in vivo effect of Gleevec in the induction of apparently selective reduction of PTKs expression under anti-tyrosine kinases treatment, suggesting its potential role in melanoma treatment.