News / Health

Breast Cancer Drug Fights Lethal Fungal Infection in HIV/AIDS Patients

FILE - An AIDS patient in New Delhi, India, holds an anti-infectious drug.
FILE - An AIDS patient in New Delhi, India, holds an anti-infectious drug.
Jessica Berman
A drug used to treat breast cancer may soon have another use - as a weapon against a lethal fungal infection that kills more HIV/AIDS patients than tuberculosis. The potential new use for tamoxifen was discovered as part of a screening process of older, already approved drugs.
 
Each year, an estimated one million people become infected with Cryptococcus.  Because the fungal infection is particularly deadly to individuals living with AIDS, most cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, home to 90 percent of individuals with the incurable disease.
 
Cryptococcosis can lead to meningitis, a life-threatening inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, according to Damian Krysan, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of Rochester in New York.
 
“It currently kills on the order of three-quarters of a million people a year, primarily again in resource-limited regions with high rates of HIV/AIDS,” says Krysan.
 
Current treatments for the fungal infection are two expensive drugs that are not readily available in developing countries and must be infused through an injection into the blood stream. Under the best of circumstances, experts say 10 to 20 percent of those who receive the treatment die.  
 
Another drug that is used in resource poor countries only slows the growth of the organism, resulting in a higher death rate. 
 
Using an increasingly popular strategy of screening drugs approved for one condition that might be useful against another, researchers led by Krysan sifted through some 2,000 compounds looking for agents that directly kill Cryptococcosis.
 
Investigators hit on tamoxifen, a generic drug that has been used for several decades to treat women with breast cancer.  Krysan says tamoxifen is inexpensive and has a number of important advantages.

“It can be given orally to patients, which is what we needed.  And Cryptococcus causes a brain infection essentially.  And so we needed that drug to get to the brain.  And tamoxifen actually crosses into the central nervous system very effectively and even accumulates to levels above what we see in the blood,” says Krysan.
 
Writing in the journal mBio, Krysan says tamoxifen is most effective against the fungal infection when combined with the drug that is already used to treat Cryptococcus in resource poor countries.
 
More tests are needed.  But because both drugs are already approved, human trials of the combination therapy are not far behind.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid