Scientists from Harvard found a drug widely used in HIV therapy has shown to stop disease progression in 25 percent of patients with fourth-line metastatic colorectal cancer.
The drug used in the study was lamivudine, a reverse transcriptase inhibitor.
The findings raise the possibility of an unexpected promising direction in cancer treatment, not just colorectal cancer.
The research is published in Cancer Discovery and was conducted by David T. Ting et al.
In the study, the team tested 32 patients with advanced metastatic colon cancer whose disease progressed despite four lines of previous cancer treatments.
The first nine patients received the standard HIV-approved dose of lamivudine.
After giving them only this one drug — nothing else — the team saw signs of disease stability.
After adjusting the dosing four-fold, another 23 patients received lamivudine therapy which was highly tolerated.
The research team found that 9 of the 32 patients, or 28 percent, had disease stability or mixed response at the end of the trial.
This provides evidence that an HIV drug can be repurposed as an anti-cancer therapy in metastatic cancer patients.
While the research team did not see tumor shrinkage, the results are encouraging.
In the studies, the team found that colorectal cancer cells were sensitive to lamivudine, reducing their ability to move.
The team also discovered that the drug led to DNA damage and interferon responses, an indication that the drug triggered an inflammatory response in the tumor cells.
Although not proven or evaluated in this trial, the team theorizes that pairing reverse transcriptase inhibitor therapy with immunotherapy might encourage immune cells to become involved in these cancers.
Recent research shows that in a U.S. population of HIV patients receiving three-drug antiretroviral therapy for life, their incidence of colon, breast, and prostate cancer was strongly less than the general population.
The team speculates this kind of therapy might prevent cancer or a recurrence or turn a crushing metastatic disease into a chronic disease like HIV.
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If you care about colon cancer, please read studies about common high blood pressure drugs may lower colon cancer risk and findings of a new way to diagnose colon cancer.
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