This FDA-approved drug for diarrhea may boost blood cancer treatment

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In a new study, researchers found that a drug already approved by the FDA to treat diarrhea may help reduce chemotherapy resistance in blood cancer.

The research was conducted by a team at King’s College London.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common cancers in the U.S. The disease causes approximately 23,000 deaths per year, according to the American Cancer Society.

It often resists chemotherapy and other frontline cancer treatments. While most patients survive more than five years, treatment is often ongoing and financially prohibitive.

In order to develop effective treatments, researchers in oncology and pharmaceutical targeting need to know why AML is so resistant to treatment and identify a route to circumvent that resistance.

In the study, the team reconstructed and identified the cells of origin of a highly aggressive and treatment-resistant form of human leukemia.

They found that these treatment-resistant leukemia cells expressed a special protein to pump out chemo-drugs.

That finding allowed the team to target the cause of treatment resistance right from the source.

Using an antibiotic in the clinic for diarrheal treatment to suppress the activity of this pump, the researchers were able to re-sensitize the cells to chemotherapy, and strongly extend the survival of mice transplanted with human leukemia cells.

The team says the discovery of an antibiotic with the ability to sensitize a highly aggressive and resistant form of leukemia to chemo-treatment will provide new hope for those patients who otherwise have no treatment options.

Also since this antibiotic is already in use for diarrheal, it will allow a relatively fast and easy reposition for leukemia treatment.

One author of the study is Dr. Chi Wai Eric So, Ph.D., Professor and Chair in Leukemia Biology.

The study is published in Science Translational Medicine.

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