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Medications Developed for Other Uses May Curb Cervical Cancer

Ciclopirox and deferiprone inhibit cancer-causing enzyme (December 16)

Two existing drugs — one the active ingredient in an antifungal medication and the other used to control iron levels in the blood — both show promise as potential treatments for cervical cancer, according to new research conducted at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. The findings were published in Cancer Research.

The study demonstrated how the antifungal agent ciclopirox and the blood treatment deferiprone effectively inhibit an enzyme called deoxyhypusine hydroxylase (DOHH). The enzyme is believed to be essential to the molecular chain of events that leads to cervical cancer.

The researchers performed laboratory experiments on cells derived from cervical cancer and found that when DOHH is blocked, a protein known as eIF5A fails to mature. That, in turn, alters the expression of genes that without the medications would cause cancer cells to proliferate.

In September, the investigators published evidence that the same two drugs eradicated the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from infected cells examined in laboratory cultures.

The drugs had two separate effects on HIV. First, both medications prevented the virus from reproducing within cells. Second, by disturbing the function of the mitochondria (the cells’ “power stations”), the drugs caused HIV-infected cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells. Once the medications were discontinued, HIV infection did not return.

An essential aspect of the research team’s work with these medications is that both are approved by the FDA for their originally intended uses, which means they are considered safe for use by human patients. Repurposing the medications to treat cervical cancer and HIV infection creates a potentially huge shortcut to approval if the drugs prove their worth, the investigators say.

Source: Medical Xpress; December 16, 2013.

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