Common antidepressant may help treat deadly brain cancer

Credit: Nastya Dulhiier/Unsplash.

Every once in a while, the thing you’re looking for can be found right under your nose.

Or in your medicine cabinet.

In a new study from Stanford University, researchers found that a common antidepressant, fluoxetine (commonly known as Prozac) appears to target glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer.

Real-world data also reveals that glioblastoma patients who have been prescribed Prozac along with the standard treatment for the disease survived longer.

Glioblastoma is a difficult to treat, often deadly, brain cancer.

It’s the most common malignant brain cancer in adults. But, currently, there are no ways to detect it early, and treatments are often ineffective.

The brain’s unique makeup is part of what makes glioblastoma difficult to treat.

It’s sequestered from the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier, which protects precious nerve cells from potential bad agents circulating in the bloodstream.

But this barrier also prohibits the entry of many medications — another hurdle to overcome when designing drugs to target brain cancers.

Finally, glioblastomas are known to have many copies of cancer-associated genes, including one called the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR.

Previous studies have shown that targeting these genes directly wasn’t successful.

In the current study, the team found that people with glioblastomas whose cancers made high levels of an enzyme involved in sphingolipid metabolism called SMPD1 had significantly shorter lifespans than patients whose cancers expressed lower levels of the enzyme.

Then researchers searched the scientific literature for compounds that can inhibit SMPD1 and also cross the blood-brain barrier.

Surprisingly, fluoxetine, or Prozac, achieves both of these goals.

To find out more evidence, researchers surveyed the electronic medical records of a large insurance claims database to identify people with glioblastomas who had also been taking fluoxetine during their illnesses.

They found that patients who had received Prozac, along with the standard of care for glioblastomas, lived much longer than the control group.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about mental health drugs that may harm your brain health and a low-carb diet that may help reverse brain aging.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about the best foods for brain health, and results showing common habits that can make your brain age fast.

The study was conducted by JunfengBi et al., and published in Cell Reports.

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