Clinical Trial at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Studies Combination of ALS and Kidney Cancer Drugs for Melanoma Use

That is the focus of research now underway at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), which aims to determine safe dosing levels for the drugs known as riluzole and sorafenib when used together in the treatment of patients with melanoma. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center — one of only 40 in the country.

Melanoma cells often produce a protein called Grm1, which aids in the growth of the disease. Riluzole, which is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ALS — or Lou Gehrig’s disease — (a condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord), has been shown to block Grm1’s action. Recent riluzole studies at CINJ have shown evidence of tumor shrinkage in melanoma patients. This work is based on that of the laboratory of Suzie Chen, PhD, CINJ member and professor of chemical biology at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Sorafenib, an FDA-approved drug used to treat kidney cancer and a form of liver cancer, is considered a “targeted therapy” that has been shown to slow the spread of cancer cells. Recent laboratory studies at CINJ have shown a more positive effect in the treatment of melanoma with riluzole and sorafenib together than if either drug were given by itself. This new study will investigate the combination of the two drugs in patients with advanced melanoma.

“By combining riluzole and sorafenib, we have the ability to block different signaling pathways that promote tumor growth. We are investigating whether the combination of these drugs offers an opportunity to create a therapy that utilizes lower doses of each individual drug, yet have it be more effective in slowing tumor growth and eventually shutting it down,” said lead researcher Janice Mehnert, MD, medical oncologist at CINJ and assistant professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Adults with stage III or stage IV melanoma (cancer that has spread beyond where it first occurred) who are unable to have surgery to either cure or lessen their cancer symptoms) are eligible to take part in the trial, although other criteria must be met. Prior to being accepted into the study, participants would undergo a number of tests including blood work and a physical.

If accepted for participation in the trial, individuals will take riluzole and sorafenib by mouth each day and will record this activity in a pill diary.

For more information on how to take part, individuals should call CINJ’s Office of Human Research Services at 732-235-8675 or e-mail [email protected].

The trial is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Clinical trials, often called cancer research studies, test new treatments and new ways of using existing treatments for cancer. At CINJ, researchers use these studies to answer questions about how a treatment affects the human body and to make sure it is safe and effective. There are several types of clinical trials that are currently underway at CINJ, including those that diagnose, treat, prevent, and manage symptoms of cancer. Many treatments used today, whether they are drugs or vaccines; ways to do surgery or give radiation therapy; or combinations of treatments, are the results of past clinical trials.

As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, CINJ offers patients access to treatment options not available at other institutions within the state. CINJ currently has more than 1,000 patients enrolled in clinical trials, including approximately 15 percent of all new adult cancer patients and approximately 70 percent of all pediatric cancer patients. Enrollment in these studies nationwide is fewer than five percent of all adult cancer patients.


About The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey ( is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. CINJ’s physician-scientists engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support CINJ, call 732-235-8614 or visit CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

The CINJ Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Mountainside Hospital, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Somerset Medical Center, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center at Princeton. *Academic Affiliate



Contact: Michele Fisher                                                         
Phone: 732-235-9872
E-mail: [email protected]