Brain Cancer Cells Eat Themselves With Help Of Antidepressant, Blood Thinner Combo

First Posted: Sep 25, 2015 07:04 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal Cancer Cell reveal that antidepressants, particularly when combined with blood thinners, may work against brain cancer by excessively increasing tumor autophagy, otherwise known as a process that results in cancerous tumor cells eating themselves.

"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," Douglas Hanahan, senior author of the study, said in a statement. "However, it is presently unclear whether patients might benefit from this treatment. This new mechanism-based strategy to therapeutically target glioblastoma is provocative, but at an early stage of evaluation, and will require considerable follow-up to assess its potential."

In this recent study, researchers used mice models to test out the drug combination, giving the mice a combination therapy five days a week with 10 to 15 minute intervals between drugs. While the blood thinner was injected, the antidepressant was given orally.

The findings suggest that the drugs work synergistically, disrupting the biological pathway that controls the rate of autophagy, in two different places, resulting in cancer cell death. 

"Importantly, the combination therapy did not cure the mice; rather, it delayed disease progression and modestly extended their lifespan," Hanahan said. "It seems likely that these drugs will need to be combined with other classes of anticancer drugs to have benefit in treating gliblastoma patients. 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."

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