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MS drug boosts effectiveness of cancer therapy in treating glioblastoma, study shows

Published on 09/08/19 at 11:03am

The multiple sclerosis (MS) drug teriflunomide boosts the effectiveness of cancer drugs in treating glioblastoma, according to researchers from UC, San Diego.

The combo halts glioblastoma stem cells, markedly shrinks tumours and improves survival in mice, the study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, says.

Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, is hard to treat. While chemotherapy may be able to destroy the majority of a patients glioblastoma cells, a small population of cancer stem cells, who are able to replicate indefinitely, remain.

To continue replicating the cancer stem cells need to continue to produce DNA. To do that, they must make pyrimidine, one of the building blocks of DNA. However MS drug teriflunomide blocks the production of pyrimidine-forming enzymes.

In the lab, the team found that even teriflunomide alone caused tumours to shrink and improved survival in mice. They then combined the drug with cancer therapy BKM-120 which allowed the mice to live even longer.   

Dr Jeremy Rich, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, commented: “We're excited about these results, especially because we're talking about a drug that's already known to be safe in humans.”

“But this laboratory model isn't perfect -- yes it uses human patient samples, yet it still lacks the context a glioblastoma would have in the human body, such as interaction with the immune system, which we know plays an important role in determining tumor growth and survival. Before this drug could become available to patients with glioblastoma, human clinical trials would be necessary to support its safety and efficacy.”

Louis Goss

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