Antimalaria drug shows benefits in cancer treatment

26 July 2016

Scientists have discovered that an approved therapy for treating malaria could have a role to play in improving current cancer therapy methods.

The study from the Cancer Research UK Radiation Research Centre in Oxford examined the effect of the drug atovaquone on tumours with low oxygen levels in mice, to see if it could be repurposed to treat cancer.

It was shown that the antimalarial therapy was able to slow down the rate at which cancer cells use oxygen. When tumours are fully oxygenated, they cannot repair themselves as effectively and are more easily destroyed by radiotherapy.

Not only was the drug shown to be effective against a wide range of cancers - including lung, bowel, brain, and head and neck cancer - but the fact it is no longer patented means it is readily and cheaply available from generic medicines manufacturers.

Lead author Professor Gillies McKenna at the Cancer Research UK/Medical Research Council Institute for Radiation Oncology in Oxford said: "We hope that this existing low-cost drug will mean that resistant tumours can be re-sensitised to radiotherapy. And we're using a drug that we already know is safe."

Posted by Jeanette Royston

 


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