Drug Duo Makes Brain Cancer Cells Eat Themselves

Credit: Nephron 

New research has found that combining anti-depressant and blood thinning drugs can make one type of brain cancer eat itself. 

Anti-depressants already help a lot of people suffering from depression, but we've known for some time that they can also lower risk of a particularly aggressive type of brain cancer - glioblastoma. They may have some preventative effect, but alone they failed to halt any once they had emerged. This caught the interest of a research team.

Particular types of anti-depressants seem to boost a process called autophagy in tumours, in which the cancer cells effectively eat themselves. The problem was that alone they were too weak to be effective. 

Could they work in combination with another? 

After searching for a drug with similar activity, researchers combined an anti-depressant with a blood thinner. This duo was able to double mouse lifespan with glioblastoma, and had far more effect than either did by itself. 

These are different plates of glioblastoma cells. The 1st and 2nd columns from the left show application of an anti-depressant or blood thinner alone. The 3rd column displays that combining the two is far more effective.  Credit: Douglas Hanahan.

This treatment is promising, but it's by no means a cure. The duo delayed progression and gave the mice more time, but it didn't destroy the tumour entirely. What's encouraging about the research is that it shows two common and easily accessible drugs can have interesting effects when combined together. More analysis is needed, but because both are already safe and approved, they could be quickly added to regimes in existing patients. They could help provide precious more time.

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