News

Researchers Say Malaria Drug Could Also Treat Cancer

Vidushi Sinha

Researchers say a drug commonly used to treat malaria and rheumatoid arthritis has also proved effective in treating some aggressive cancers.   When scientists administered hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, together with known cancer drugs, they found it stopped the growth of cancerous tumors in two-thirds of the patients.

Scientists know that human cancer cells grow by getting energy from adjacent tumors, where cells have begun to self-destruct.

The spread of cancer is accelerated by the death of these cells.

“This process called autophagy, which literally means to self-eat, is present in all cells," said Dr. Ravi Amaravadi. "But what we are finding in our research is that cancer cells have a very high level of autophagy even before any treatment, and so they are poised to take on the damage from existing cancer therapies and simply break down the damaged parts to fuel further growth.”

Dr. Ravi Amaravadi spoke to us via Skype. He is a cancer specialist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. His group treated patients by combining conventional cancer medications with the anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine.  The compound is known to inhibit autophagy and researchers hoped it could stop cancer cells from growing.

In clinical trials, scientists found that hydroxychloroquine paired poorly with some cancer drugs.  But it worked well with others, such as Temsirolimus, in helping to halt tumor growth - a so-called "stable disease" rate -  in patients with melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer.

“And when Temsirolimus [a cancer drug] was tested in melanoma, it had zero percent stable disease rate," said Amaravadi. "And when we combined with hydroxychloroquine malaria drug, the stable disease rate went up to 76 percent so that’s a very big difference.”

Researchers used a high dose of hydroxychloroquine to block autophagy, much higher than what's normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis or malaria. The dosage has not yet proved harmful.

Dr. Davide Ruggero at the University of California, San Francisco, is also studying the growth of cancer cells. He says the results of the research with hydroxychloriquine are promising.

“This is a great discovery because we know that the compounds are not toxic - have already been used," said Ruggero.

But Dr. Amaravadi warns that oncologists should not use the anti-malaria drug outside of clinical settings. He says hydroxychloroquine has severe side effects when combined with some cancer drugs. So the knowledge of which compounds work well together is critical.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs