Antidepressants working in combination with anticoagulants can halt the growth of brain tumours known as gliomas such that the cancer cells end up eating themselves. The findings have been published in the journal Cancer Cell.
Gliomas come from the glial cells in the brain that are normally used to support and insulate neurones. They make around 30 % of all brain tumours. Little treatment is currently available for patients. The new drug combination seems to bring about desirable effects on the cells.
When the drugs were used on mice, their lifespans were doubled. The researchers now look forward to test them on human glioma patients. Perhaps, they could help adding more days to the patients’ lives?
“It is exciting to envision that combining two relatively inexpensive and non-toxic classes of generic drugs holds promise to make a difference in the treatment of patients with lethal brain cancer,” said one of the researchers, Douglas Hanahan from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in a statement.
The class of antidepressants used are the tricyclic ones, and they were taken orally by the mice. They were combined with the anticoagulant drug called ticlopidine which was injected 10 to 15 minutes later. This was repeated for 4 more days.
The “therapy” disrupts a pathway in the brain known to control a mechanism in glial cells call autophagy (eating oneself) such that the cancer cells were triggered to destroy their own kinds.
“It seems likely that these drugs will need to be combined with other classes of anticancer drugs to have benefit in treating gliblastoma patients,” Hanahan said in a statement. “One can also envision ‘co-clinical trials’ wherein experimental therapeutic trials in the mouse models of glioblastom are linked to analogous small proof-of-concept trials in GBM patients. Such trials may not be far off.”