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Male birth control drug may hold promise for treating lung cancer, Chinese study finds

Published on 04/12/19 at 12:13pm

A drug for male birth control may hold promise for treating lung cancer patients when treatments like immunotherapy do not work.

This was discovered in a study led by Fang Xiaohong, a researcher at the Beijing National Research Centre for Molecular Sciences and the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Oncology.

The drug they are researching is gossypol, a natural compound derived from cotton seed, which proved effective in reducing sperm counts during trials in the 1970s in China. It was eventually shelved due to side-effects, such as leaving men with permanently reduced sperm levels after they stopped taking the drug while high doses could result in malnutrition, circulation problems and sometimes even failure.

However, in Fang’s test the drug was found to effectively suppress the growth of tumours in mice. It was also found to have a similar effect on human cell lines, reducing cancerous cells at higher doses.

Fang’s study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and has concluded that gossypol could be effective in cases where immunotherapy does not work.

It could be especially effective in patients with lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) and it works by attacking a protein that might play an important role in tumour growth.

In his paper Fang noted: “This work provides a promising new strategy both in lung cancer targeted therapy and the developments of protein knockdown technology.”

The drug is being trialled in a public hospital in Tangshan, Hebei province. It will involve 60 patients between ages 50 and 75, with half being given gossypol. All of them will have been diagnosed with late-stage and inoperable lung cancer.

Conor Kavanagh

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